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Sex is Only 5% of Tantric Practice - So, What is Tantra, Anyway?

Updated: May 16

what is tantra and what's the difference between neo-tantra and classical tantra

What is Tantra, Anyway?

Some of the first teachers of tantra I encountered taught that “sex is only 5% of tantric practice.”

But when I had the nerve to ask them, “then what is the other 95%?” — all I got was crickets.

They couldn’t tell me!

That was a huge red flag for me because as an academic I couldn’t imagine not having a wide perspective and historical knowledge on what I was teaching.

I know in certain guru cultures it’s really not done to ask questions or situate the teachings in a broader context.

But after the patriarchal nonsense disguised in religious clothing that I’d experienced all my life through the church, I wasn’t about to let this slide.

So, I took matters into my own hands and decided to study and find out for myself.

Discovering Authentic Teachers

On my search to answer the question: What is Tantra? I spent so much time struggling through reading old tantric texts on my own.

It was like deciphering a secret code, with scholars’ translations being a far cry from the Neo-tantra books at the local bookstore.

I could see there was something brilliant there, but I struggled to bottom-line it — until a friend in academia turned me on to the new scholar-practitioners who were reviving these old texts.

Finally, the tradition was brought to life through their wide perspective and lived experience. I learned to both embody and study the path, each mode refining the understanding of the other (this was not too far removed from how we had mastered organic chemistry, back in my lab research days.

The True Essence of Tantra

Guess what? The other 95% — scratch that, let’s make it 99% — of tantra that’s NOT about sex is actually WAY MORE compelling than the (tiny) sexual aspect.

So, what is Tantra?

Well - it's about grappling with life’s biggest questions: Where do we come from? What’s the meaning of it all? Who are we really? Why do we suffer? What’s the nature of reality?

Yeah… Let that sink in.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not discounting the transformative power of what is better-known as ‘neo-tantra’ or ‘California tantra’ — ie, practices focused on the unshaming of our sexual selves, better intimacy and relationships, and re-claiming pleasure.

I am grateful for having been able to transform my relationship to my body, pleasure, and sexuality through neo-tantra — it profoundly changed my life and continues to work magic.

Integration of Practices

As I wove together the modern somatic practices with the intellectually-satisfying and ego-transcending philosophical inquiries, I found a balance that really struck a chord.

Applying these teachings — esoteric and full of wonder — to my daily life became my path.

My work is now about incorporating both the modern somatic, un-shaming practices working with sexuality -

AND the non-dual metaphysics that check-mated my mind -

Which feels like a humbling, grounded tonic compared to the disturbing energy I sometimes feel from the Neo-Tantra scene.

(Plus I’m not really into group hugs or getting touched by a bunch of strangers).

Navigating The Path

Bhoga and Moksha — a radical proposition!

The non-dual tantric path is not the ascetic path of ‘transcending’ this life, body, or emotions. It’s about using everything in life as a path for awakening. It’s about both enjoyment and liberation.

That doesn’t mean it’s a license for unchecked indulgence.

The catch is to move through life with awareness. The challenge is that it can be easy to convince yourself that your indulgence is part of the path, when what’s actually happened is that you’ve lost awareness.

The tantric journey is not about getting more of what you think you want.

Or making your ego-self more comfortable.

Sometimes, it’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do.

Like having that hard, but necessary conversation with your partner.

Or owning up to how your body doesn’t quite ‘perform’ like you want it to in intimacy.

To answer the question: What is Tantra? We start by facing the truth of what is so for you, right now. Coming face-to-face with material reality as it is. Not thinking it should be different, or only focussing on the ‘light’.

When you’re able to do that, it’s like a tonic. You gain courage, integrity, and wisdom.

Then what used to scare you loses its power over you.

Incorporating Neo-tantra Into Your Sex Life

That said…

You probably came here though because you were curious about incorporating tantra into your sex life though, right?

And you wanted to do it in both a fun, but also sophisticated way.

Maybe you were put off by the wild claims and unfortunate aesthetics of the popular tantra scene.

You wondered what this was really about, and where it all came from.

I’m here to give you both the practical, sexy fun, and the wider perspective, true to my academic roots.

Let’s start with how to incorporate Neo-Tantra into your sex life now.

Download my free guide here — it’s not at all what you think!

With love,

Dr. Jessica


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