By Siobhan Lavelle
It was the last day of the workshop – the first part of my Tantra teacher training – and I was looking out the window at the sunset over the Ojai Valley in California. So much had happened over the course of the ten days. I felt like I’d been there for an eternity, and my new classmates felt like close family I’d known all my life, or longer. I had exfoliated so many layers of fear, presumption and conditioning, uncovering parts of my self previously not experienced – raw passion, deep peace, gentle courage and much more. It was difficult to understand how such dramatic changes had occurred with so little effort, but I didn’t need to understand. I had only to enjoy it.
The plan was to go to the South of Mexico next, where I was going to have my first teaching experience at a rainbow gathering in the jungle. I had never been to a third world country before (in fact, this was my first time outside of Europe). I was travelling alone with very little money. The directions I had were vague and I had never taught a class in anything before. I had no idea how it was all going to come together. It usually took a lot less than this to terrify me, but somehow I wasn’t afraid at all.
The path I was on felt right and nothing could have stopped me from continuing. I felt strong and calm. I had a beautiful feeling of being ready to embrace the unknown. At that moment, it didn’t make any difference to me what was coming next – I was just open to welcoming it unconditionally. Then I realised – this is love.
In love, our true nature, nothing is good or bad, wanted or unwanted. There are no negative energies or emotions, no evil people, no wrong choices, no problems, no struggle and no judgements. Everything is accepted, what’s more welcomed, evenly.
This concept might sound far fetched to many people. I certainly don’t feel this way all the time, but the phases of my life, be them days, hours or minutes in which I have been blessed with the ability to really live love, have been the most joyful and easiest times I’ve known, regardless of the external circumstances. As well as being happier in this state, I am also more efficient because I am more present, not burdened by the past or worrying about the future.
This, to me, is what Tantra is about. The word Tantra is related to the word ‘unity’. When we stop labelling different parts of our experience, choosing to fight against some and chase after others, we can enter into a deep unity with all of existence. All emotions, including anger and sadness, can be experienced as blissful. We can see the beauty in all people, situations and events. Even physical pain becomes no more than a sensation, a helpful message from the body.
We don’t get to this state of unconditional love by trying to be positive or trying to see things that are bothering us as good and beautiful. The only way is to accept things as they are, to welcome all of our emotions (no matter how unpleasant), to be open to all of the experiences life brings our way, and to receive each moment with the curiosity of a child.
I often find I am judging myself for struggling with my emotions, like, I judge myself for getting tangled up in thoughts when I’m ‘supposed’ to be meditating. But judging oneself and trying to be good or enlightened doesn’t work. The only thing that works is embracing what is. Even if I notice I am judging myself for judging myself, the only way to have relief from that never ending chain is to accept myself at that moment, exactly as I am, with all of those judgements.
Love cannot be forced. It comes naturally when we are attentive to something (or someone), experiencing it for what it is. Fear is nothing but the refusal to experience. When we are open and all resistance is dropped, we can see clearly that everything is love.