What is Tantra?

Tantra is an ancient Sanskrit word, meaning “to weave or to expand.” In tantric sex, we weave and expand our energy with our love partner, for the purpose of opening up to the entire universe. Shaped variously by Hindu and Buddhist traditions, sometimes constricted by Confucianism, Tantra in its widest meaning describes an approach to living that links the physical universe to the cosmic whole.

Sexuality, the most physical and intimate of human interactions, is thus seen a sacred activity, continuously reenacting the original creation of the universe. The First One, separating from Itself to know Itself, embracing Itself to experience Itself.

Tantra proposes that each one of us must undergo within ourselves this total union, a joining of the female and male within us. And when love partners dance the path of Tantra together, the relationship is transformed into a sacred journey to Oneness.

Tantra describes a movement of energy, a welling up within us, of joyous excitation. Unlike forms of meditation that cause us to withdraw from the world of senses, Tantra encourages us to start with the senses, building on their ability to focus us in the present moment. Tantra probably presented the first teaching of what is now called “mindfulness.”

This ever-present energy need not be explicitly sexual; all sensual experience is appreciated as a tool for awakening the energy within us.  In the moment that we shift from overt physical pleasure to an internal joy, to a focus on the internal movement of energy, the subtle nature of our being is exposed and Tantra takes place. Nor does Tantra exclude experiences which are not overtly pleasurable; this same internal shift of focus can take place as we experience outward pain, even death.

Tantra occurs only in the present moment; yesterday’s experience has no relevance.

When I smell a rose, I smell it in this moment, not yesterday or tomorrow, but right now, right here. And if I embrace that moment of smelling the rose as the prelude to a spiritual experience, if I invite the rose-smelling into my total being, aware both of the scent and my total bodily response to the scent, aware of the softness of the petals and the rose energy in my heart, then in that moment I am open to the fullness of who I am. This is Tantra.

And if you and I both smell the rose together, and sharing that experience, dissolve our separateness into an infinite Oneness, then together we experience Tantra.

Tantra brings poetry to lovemaking. When my lover caresses my face and our eyes meet and we breathe together and acknowledge our rising passion, sense our hearts joining and our spirits soaring, the energy rising through the power centers of our bodies, this is Tantra.

Some spiritual paths teach us to deny, to say not this, not that; they teach that who we are is not the body, not the mind, not our actions, not our thoughts. Stripped of what we are not, these paths allow us to see the emergence of who we may be. Tantra takes the seemingly opposite approach and teaches us to say YES! to this, YES! to that. I smell the rose and I am that experience, my lover touches me and I am that experience, there is nothing that I am not, I am everything. All experience can be a doorway to who I am, provided I focus on the experience itself, with the intention of energetic awareness.

To learn and benefit deeply from Tantra, we must practice being still, undistracted. When I am smelling the rose, I smell the rose.

To make love in the Tantra way means to be fully present, to allow each moment to be the entire experience. In Tantric lovemaking, there is no goal, no race toward release or orgasm.  Instead, there is complete attention to each touch, each breath, each movement of energy.

Every moment in our lives can be shaped by Tantra, can be lived in fullness and acceptance.

However, our minds, our thoughts, are constantly darting here and there. We are consumed with busy-ness, at our jobs, at school, taking care of our children, our home, our parents. Birthday parties.  Thanksgiving, Christmas, weddings, funerals. We are bombarded by input from phone, TV, fax, e-mail and junk mail. Bills.

When we finally get away on vacation, often as not we’re busy skiing or snorkeling, eating, shopping, museuming, being transported from place to place.

Stop the World, I Want to Get Off! But first, I need a haircut, car wash, new blouse, shoe repair, show to see, and of course, those bills to pay. Our lives are structured around busy-ness, not around living in the moment.

While we are skiing, or snorkeling, or playing tennis, basketball, or golf, the world does disappear, leaving only the action of the sport. This is the attraction of athletics. It is a natural occurrence.

But how do we make time for a momentary tantric relationship with a flower, let alone an hour with our lover? How do we say Yes! to each moment, when the next moment is already here and then gone?

We need to do even more than make time to smell the roses. We need to learn how to let the scent permeate into our belly, deepening our breath and opening our heart to the expansiveness of spiritual experience.

Athletic pursuits require practice and training. They are designed to take place in a zone outside of daily living.  Tantra provides us a way of living daily in that zone.

An Intimacy Retreat is a great way of starting on the Tantric path with your lover!

Diana Daffner


  • Suzi Q, good friend!
    April 27, 2017 at 9:32 pm

    Yes a little Buddhism and Mindfulness, things I’ve studied Tov