Tantra – How to Begin
How can I start practicing Tantra? What if I don’t have a teacher? These are questions I am frequently asked. It’s easy, but I have to warn you that some people have not taken to my answer.
Earth water fire air space
Starting to practice traditional Tantra doesn’t involve any secret yogic practices or sex. Tantra begins when you start relating more consciously to the five elements: earth, water, fire, air, and space.
Getting started means getting your five-element act together, a.k.a. becoming more grounded and establishing better habits. This in turn relaxes your body, your energy, and your mind so that you can get the most benefit from seated practices such as mantra and meditation.
In fact, getting started with traditional Tantra involves stuff like scraping your tongue and going to bed at a regular, proper time.
Rhythm vs. Compulsion
The way to start practicing Tantra is to bring your daily conduct more in line with your constitution and nature’s rhythms. This practice is called dinacharya. (Deen-uh-char-yah) Dinacharya means “daily conduct.”
Have you ever noticed that everything in life has rhythm? The rhythm of day and night, the rhythm of the seasons, the rhythm of the tides, the pulse of the heart, bird songs and whale songs, the rhythm of procreation.
This rhythm is also ritual worship. It’s what the fabulous Maharastrian poet Jñanadeva calls “natural devotion’ or the devotion of the world for its own creations.
When we treat ourselves with loving kindness by establishing healthier rhythms in our daily life, we are demonstrating devotion, and we are opening ourselves to experiencing greater devotion.
Most of us are out of sync with our own bodies, appetites, and nature. We are acting without devotion, although we may have rhythm.
The “rhythm” most of us practice is called compulsion, and even addiction. Here’s a typical non-Tantrik daily routine:
Wake up a half hour before you have to be out the door.
As soon as, or even before, your eyes are open, start making mental lists and worrying about everything you have to accomplish during the day.
Down a huge cup of coffee and cold cereal or a muffin, preferably with the tv as accompaniment.
Keep worrying and listing while you are eating. You can do this mentally, or aloud to your spousal equivalent or roommate. Or cat.
Race to catch the bus or get through traffic to your job. (A job you likely hate.)
This routine depletes energy. It also keeps you bound to a very contracted sense of self and world. This routine has rhythm, but lacks devotion. It is out of sync with Nature.
redirecting ENERGY AND Restoring natural rhythm
Dinacharya takes your compulsive energy and uses it to establish a more natural, nourishing, devotional daily routine. Now you can conserve and nurture your energy rather than depleting it.
Why bother? Because you cannot derive benefit from practices such as mantra and kriya yoga if you are disturbed and depleted.
Here is a brief summary of how you might feel if you have common disturbances of the five elements.
EARTH: heavy, foggy, tired, difficulty shifting your energy to more healthy routines
WATER: unable to connect to your practice, lack of enjoyment
FIRE: disturbed by inflammation in your body and/or angry, frustrated, or passionate thoughts
WIND: can’t stop thinking and worrying, fearful, pain in joints, feeling ungrounded, falling into fantasy spiritual experiences, hard time making choices and sticking to them
SPACE: trancing out, overwhelmed, enjoying grandiose spiritual fantasies
I’ve met many sincere yogis who are completely out of whack energetically and emotionally because they have not established a proper daily routine.
Dinacharaya is the foundation of energy conservation and proper energetic alignment with nature. It is part of the Tantrik science of life “ayurveda.”
In order to practice dinacharya, you will want to read something about ayurveda and learn a bit about your basic constitution. In fact, learning about your unique configuration and what is needed to cultivate optimal energy and health for your system is one of the perks of practicing Dinacharya.
There are many books about Ayurveda that can help you to begin to understand Ayurveda and figure out the best daily routine and foods for your constitution.
A really good one is Ayurveda: The Science of Self Healing: A Practical Guide
by Dr. Vasant Lad.
If you live in a metropolitan area or in India, consider seeing an Ayurvedic clinician or vaidya (ayurvedic doctor). A trained Ayurvedic doctor or consultant can help you to fine-tune your daily routine and address disease and deeper imbalances.
Of course, if you practice dinacharya every day for the next six months, then I will give you the very secret, very complicated sexual yoga instructions.