Feb 19 2020
Lately I’ve noticed a significant increase in the number of people who contact me to learn about Tantra. Well you might think, is that really so odd? The media, and the culture at large, pretty much demand we focus on love and relationships in the weeks leading up to Valentines Day. But that has definitely not been the flavor of the requests I’ve received. In fact, the majority of people who have contacted me are interested in learning a solo Tantra practice.
Why is developing a Tantra practice—especially a solo Tantra practice—suddenly so appealing?
I thought back to when I first began my study and practice of Tantra. It was in the late 1980’s, just as the AIDS epidemic was reaching its peak. People were dying by the thousands. A couple of hundred of them were my friends and colleagues. Every week brought a new diagnosis, a new symptom, another death. I felt helpless. Overwhelmed. My world was a profoundly unsafe place. I sought out Tantra for inner strength and inner peace, not to enhance a relationship (although it had that effect, later on.)
Today, many of us are living in a world characterized by chaos, uncertainty and fear. A whole lot of people are feeling overwhelmed and unsafe. People tell me they are numb, uninspired, and prone to binging on Netflix rather than pursuing goals that used to seem important and fulfilling. These feelings are reasonable and natural. It’s hard to feel alive, inspired, and empowered when we do not feel safe. Living in a consistently traumatizing world overwhelms our capacity to cope. The antidotes to trauma are choice and agency. When we believe we have the power to change the things that oppress us, we set ourselves free. We discover our resilience.
You are here because you are a descendent of resilient people. If your ancestors had not been resilient, they would not be your ancestors. They would have died off long before the chain formed that that created you. You have inherited your ancestors’ resilience, and you will pass resilience down to the next generations—whether or not you have biological children. (If you don’t believe me, just think of one of the many conversations you’ve had with a younger person that gave them the strength and inspiration to keep going.)
Tantra is a resilience-building practice. Walking the Tantric path can transform any and every experience—no matter how unspiritual it may appear— into a path of fulfillment, and even enlightenment. Tantra harnesses the energy of our human desires and pleasures as fuel for personal and interpersonal transformation. Walking a Tantric path can inspire us to seek out brave spaces instead of simply safe spaces. It teaches us how we can contain bigger emotions, greater energy, more intense physical feelings, and have agency with them.
One of the core principles of Urban Tantra is the Resilient Edge of Resistance, so named by the endlessly creative Chester Mainard. It may sound obscure, but it’s really very simple. When we apply the Resilient Edge of Resistance to touch, we’re talking about the touch that feels just right. It feels safe and supportive and present. It’s neither too hard nor too soft. It lulls you into a place of deep comfort and surrender. You’re awake and aware, but completely peaceful and relaxed at the same time. You want it to go on forever. The person touching you has found your Resilient Edge of Resistance.
The Resilient Edge of Resistance applies to all parts of our being: physical, emotional, and psychic. When we have too much mental stress in our lives, we shut down, overwhelmed; yet when there is too little stress, we have no energy, no motivation. On the psychic level, the Resilient Edge of Resistance translates into “sufficiently supported to take a risk.” Without risk, there is no growth or energy; however, without support, risk becomes recklessness. In the territory between, we can grow, thrive, and find pleasure. We function optimally at the Resilient Edge of Resistance.
The Resilient Edge of Resistance shifts constantly. When pressure is applied to the edge of resistance—whether that pressure is breath, touch, or tension—you expand a bit. This creates a new edge of resistance. Yoga postures are a good example of this. If you are seated on the floor and bend over to try to touch your forehead to your legs, it may at first seem impossible. Then, with each breath, you relax into the stretch a little bit more. You don’t force it, you just open up a bit more with each breath. Before you know it, your nose is a lot closer to your legs than you ever thought possible. By staying at the Resilient Edge of Resistance, you are able to go much deeper into the pose than if you had not gone to the edge, or if you had pushed past the edge into pain. The Resilient Edge of Resistance is the place where you feel safe enough to surrender and go deeper.
I have explored—and invited others to explore—the Resilient Edge of Resistance in physical touch for many years. Now, my Urban Tantra workshops are expanding to address our need for Tantric techniques which expand our emotional and psychic Resilient Edges of Resistance. With breath, and with a focus toward respecting yet expanding our resilient edges, we will be able to convert all our emotional states and physical desires into fuel to empower us both personally and as human community.
If you’d like to add Tantra to your toolkit of resilience, or you want to deepen your practice to deepen your impact in the world, take a look at my newest workshops, beginning 8 March.