Make love, not war

In her final blog, Leora Lightwoman explains the relevance of Tantra, and takes us through her perso

For the main part, what is advertised as “Tantra” today is in fact “neo-Tantra”, modern syntheses of one or more traditional Tantric paths interwoven with more eclectic movement meditations, healing processes and personal sharing, dialogue and guidance.

The intention of these schools is to offer a practical, spiritual approach to relationships, meditation and life. So the goal is not purely “nirvana” or transcendence, but also to become a happier, more loving and fulfilled human being.

As body-oriented psychotherapy evolves, it has become ever clearer how our parents’ relationship – and this fundamentally involves their sexual relationship – shapes our own patterns in relationship and our sexual expression.

It is also apparent that dissatisfaction and immaturity in these areas leads to all manner of compensatory behaviours, from family break-up to sexual abuse to cultural, religious and international warfare. On the other hand, when one has a fulfilled, mature, spiritual sexual life, then a sense of completeness, overflowing love, connectedness and generosity is the natural consequence.

Tantra and neo-Tantra can offer both individuals and couples the skills and transformation required to truly “make love not war”.

My journey:

After completing a degree in Psychology, and feeling empty and unsatisfied with the information that I had learned, I trained as a yoga teacher. This gave meaning to my life. The method of yoga I was practising was from the Vajryana school of Buddhism, and it worked with the elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether (the substance within which all elements reside).

It was Tantric in the non-sexual sense. In exploring the elements as they related to the physical body, seeking balance and harmony, I reflected on these elements and this balance in the whole of life.

Meanwhile my intimate relationships were a mess. I was frequently attracted to men who were either unavailable or were not interested in committed partnership.

Motivated by feelings of frustration, isolation and longing for the truth, I travelled first to a Thai monastery to practice vipassana (insight) meditation, and then to Australia where I attended an international conference on the breath.

Here I discovered Tantra, or neo-Tantra, and it was absolutely a seminal moment in my life. Despite being a shy, rather awkward young woman, I realised that I could have a deep sense of connection with a whole room full of strangers, without wanting something from them or needing them to be any different.

I had a sense of wholeness and completeness in myself, for the first time in my adult life. It was truly as if my body were, to use a popular Tantric metaphor, a flute, and that my breath and energy could travel up and down it freely, and it was all integrated.

Meditation was a sexual experience. Sexual expression was mediation. Love was the gateway that connected them both. And it was both quite a raw personal experience of opening and feeling vulnerable in an unfamiliar way, and yet also very joyful and transcendent.

From that point I continued my Tantric studies with various teachers, and became a Tantra facilitator myself, starting my own school, Diamond Light Tantra, in 2000. Adults of all ages and backgrounds, and from different religions attend. Students report benefits such as reconnection with beauty and sacredness, recognition that true fulfilment lies within themselves, and renewed vitality and connection with life.

After many years of marriage devoid of deep intimacy, long-term partners have fallen in love with each other again. Women who connect more deeply with their bodies have been able to conceive, immediately, after years of unsuccessfully trying, and have healed trauma from early experiences including sexual abuse.

Men feel more in touch with their potency and identity as men, as well as with their capacity to give and receive love. Couples make love as a spiritual practice, as prayer, for their relationship, for their children and for the healing of the planet.

Leora Lightwoman read psychology at Oxford University, then trained as a yoga teacher and bodyworker. She has been a Tantra practitioner since 1993. In 2001 she formed her own school, Diamond Light Tantra. This is a pragmatic and eclectic approach to sexual, emotional and spiritual healing.
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To beat the Trump hype, we need a return to old-fashioned political virtues

If we want to resist the Trumpification of politics, what we need is restraint, duty and incorruptibility.

After the 1992 US presidential election, Alistair Cooke’s celebrated BBC radio series Letter from America struck a poignant note. Cooke described Bill Clinton’s worn jeans and checked wool shirt, contrasting them with George H W Bush’s buttoned-up Wasp manners and buttoned-down Ivy League shirts. Clinton’s style, Cooke argued, was a rebuke to a tired social and political establishment. His casualness was the new America.

Cooke, then 83, was honest enough to admit unease about this departure from the old, patrician modes and manners. “Along with the passing of George Bush,” he said, “we shall see, I fear, the passing of the blue blazer.” Cooke seemed right at the time. But don’t write off the blue blazer just yet. As ruling elites change, so does the appropriate counterpoint. To topple Bush’s stuffy golf club elites, Clinton picked up his saxophone, took off his tie and felt everyone’s pain. And now? The subtext of these turbulent months (the inevitable second question, prompted by “How do you beat Donald Trump?”) is: “What should ­tomorrow’s leaders, the leaders we crave, look and sound like?”

My conjecture is that, to beat Trump and his type – bling, shiny suits, dodgy deals – we should push towards centre stage an underestimated set of political virtues: restraint, duty and incorruptibility. If it weren’t for the gender associations, I would be tempted to call this quality gentlemanliness. Aside from personal virtue – signally lacking in the Clinton camp – how might decency inform public debate as it comes under attack from maverick showmen trained in the media circus? How can the middle ground regain its confidence?

First, level with the public. Maybe liberalism hasn’t failed so much as its messaging has failed. Instead of smashing the electorate over the head with the idea that everything is just great, make the case that not everything can be for the best in all possible worlds. As populists reach for empty slogans, a new space has opened up. Accept and exploit those asymmetries: more people are ready to hear uncomfortable truths than politicians imagine.

Kingsley Amis once argued that a writer’s voice should stay close to his speaking voice: not the same, but close. Adapting that idea, if politicians stayed closer in public debate to the truths that they articulate in casual conversation – some things are impossible; almost every policy creates a losing as well as a winning side; there really isn’t any money – they would be surprised how many people are ready to hear that not all problems can be evaporated into thin air. Stray too far from awkward truths and elections become about simple lies v tricksy lies.

Second, centrists do more harm than good when they rush to categorise dissenting opinion as not only wrong, but unacceptable. “Any suggestion that liberal values are not humanly universal,” as John Gray wrote in a recent NS essay, “will provoke spasms of righteous indignation.” Instead, we need to be more tolerant in our tolerance.

Third, stop pretending that everything desirable can be shoehorned into the “progressive” agenda. “I really care passionately about persevering with the common-sense middle ground and doing it quite well” is a problematic political sales pitch, but not for the reasons that are usually given. The gravest difficulty may come at the beginning, with the faux passion, rather than with the substance – public service and competence – underneath.

It is revealing that those closest to David Cameron expended so much energy trying to persuade us that he was not an updated version of Harold Macmillan. That is why the gay marriage reforms, though admirable, were accorded too much significance. Ah, Cameron was a natural crusader! But he paid a price for dressing up as a “radical” when greater challenges arrived. It weakened some of his strongest cards – calmness, perspective, proportion – just as politics was coarsening. Aren’t Tories supposed to understand the virtues of yesterday? In other words, as an electoral strategy to beat Trump (or Nigel Farage), I’d put up a Macmillan type over a Clinton type every time.

Fourth, cut ties with “messaging experts”. It’s a fraud. They teach that everything must be asserted with powerful conviction. Yet ideas unworthy of powerful conviction are best left shorn of them. The electorate has endured a communications version of crying wolf. As a result of the messaging game, when something genuinely important crops up, it sounds simply like the same old shtick.

Fifth, ditch the bogus quantification. Few things signal untrustworthiness more reliably than fake precision. Something shifted in me when George Osborne argued that Brexit would leave households £4,300 worse off. What, no decimal point? Voters understand uncertainty better than politicians imagine. Precise quantification used to sound professional. Now it sounds suspicious.

Finally, think about tone. Conventional wisdom holds that the mainstream must fight the Trumpian revolution on its own terms: a simple solution, memorably expressed, a guiding vision for the country or the world. If anyone has a good one to hand, I’m all for it. But what if – after decades of ­sophisticated argument and counterargument, as politics has solved the easy problems while parking the difficult or insoluble ones – we have reached a state of such evolved equilibrium that no such easy answer can exist?

Pretending otherwise is no longer a point of difference. It takes you towards the lowest common denominator. As Trump has shown, that is well-occupied territory. Perhaps wooing the angry mob is not the solution. Instead, the admirable and successful politician of the future will have to win back the support of moderate, sensible but disillusioned voters. 

Ed Smith is a journalist and author, most recently of Luck. He is a former professional cricketer and played for both Middlesex and England.

This article first appeared in the 01 December 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Age of outrage