or “tool of extending.” The central image for the word
tantra is a loom, in which you take strings and stretch
them over a wooden frame. By adjusting the tension and
crisscrossing the threads, you can weave together a fabric.
Tension is a good thing, but it has to be worked as a craft,
finding the sweet spots between extending and relaxing.
The act of weaving, using the ancient method, is as physical as being in a rowing machine. You wrap a strap around
your waist or hips, and with each new layer of threads, extend the strings in the loom. By leaning back, you increase
the tension, and leaning forward, you reduce it. You are
dancing with the strings, playing them, as they stretch out
from the belt around your waist. You sense tiny nuances of
tension in your belly and pelvis.
If you stretch a different kind of string over a frame, you
get a stringed musical instrument. Tantra with a long A in
the tan means “having wires, stringed (a musical instrument), the music of a stringed instrument.” A lute, sitar,
bass, and guitar are all variations of this same technology,
where you stretch resonating strings within a frame. Tantri
with a long I at the end means “the wire or strings of a
lute” and also “the strings of the heart.”
We are weaving together the threads of our energies and
emotions, making something useful and beautiful out of
the raw materials of life. The fabric of life hums with vitality, and we are making music as we attend to the vibrating
connectedness between ourselves and those we are related
to. The practice of love involves noticing and tending to
the emotional resonance between us and those we adore.
Just like the strings on a guitar, bass, violin, or sitar where
each has an optimal tension, the emotional resonances between you and the people you love have an optimal level
People who have a rich emotional life, with a playlist of
relationships—babies, children, teenagers, dogs, cats,
friends of all types, a lover, a teacher, students, and people
at work—often feel that much of their meditation time is
spent paying attention to the texture of each of these connections. Each emotional cord calls for attention.
In class and in private sessions, when I invite people to
talk about what they are experiencing in meditation, they
often make gestures (mudra) that involve touching their
heart area, and then extending outward, as if gesturing to-
ward the people they love. When meditators pay attention
to the sensations in the heart area, they often feel a hum
of connectedness, with interesting textures. This is what
it can feel like to be in the heart. It’s normal for half or
more of your meditation time to be spent just tending to
the heart—paying tender attention—to each of your rela-
tionships, in the safety of your practice.
Therefore, in meditation, welcome all your tensions, just
like musicians welcome the experience of their fingers on
the instrument. Invite whatever you are tense about to
come into the space of your practice, be on the mat with
you, be with you on your pillow, chair, or sofa. Breathe
with the tension, listen to it, and let the musician in your
heart tune each string so that it is stretched just right to
create the music of your life.
No one’s life is exactly like yours, so there is no exact pattern for you to follow. A lot of improvisation is involved.
You are engaged in the art and craft of weaving the emotional texture of your life, with all its nuances and melodies, into one beautiful tapestry, or symphony, of love.
All this is just a small part of the universe of meaning in
the word tantra. From the central image of the framework
of a loom, tantra came to mean a theoretical framework
and a system. Here is the beginning of the listing for tantra: a loom. the warp. the leading or principal or essential
part, main point, characteristic feature, model, type, system, framework. doctrine, rule, theory, scientific work. a
class of works teaching magical and mystical formulas, in
the form of dialogues between Shiva and Durga and said
to treat of five subjects, 1. the creation, 2. the destruction
of the world, 3. the worship of the gods, 4. the attainment
of all objects, esp. of six superhuman faculties, 5. the four
modes of union with the supreme spirit by meditation. The
Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary, p. 436.
Dr. Lorin Roche was lucky enough to begin practicing asana, pranayama, and meditation in 1968, and he still feels like a beginner – every day. He was trained as a
meditation teacher in 1969-1970 and has been sharing the delight ever since.
He works with individuals to refine their meditation practice and offers meditation
teacher training. Lorin is the author of Meditation Made Easy, Meditation Secrets for
Women, and The Radiance Sutras. He has a Ph.D. from the University of California
for his work on the language of meditation. Come join Lorin and his yogini shaktini
wife, Camille Maurine, at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California in February for Wild
Serenity in Love. Visit lorinroche.com