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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Former Irish premier John Bruton on Brexit: "Britain should pay for our border checks"

The former Taoiseach says Brexit has been interpreted as "a profoundly unfriendly act"

At Kapıkule, on the Turkish border with Bulgaria, the queue of lorries awaiting clearance to enter European Union territory can extend as long as 17km. Despite Turkey’s customs union for goods with the bloc, hauliers can spend up to 30 hours clearing a series of demanding administrative hoops. This is the nightmare keeping former Irish premier John Bruton up at night. Only this time, it's the post-Brexit border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, and it's much, much worse.   

Bruton (pictured below), Taoiseach between 1994 and 1997, is an ardent pro-European and was historically so sympathetic to Britain that, while in office, he was pilloried as "John Unionist" by his rivals. But he believes, should she continue her push for a hard Brexit, that Theresa May's promise for a “seamless, frictionless border” is unattainable. 

"A good example of the sort of thing that might arise is what’s happening on the Turkish-Bulgarian border," the former leader of Ireland's centre-right Fine Gael party told me. “The situation would be more severe in Ireland, because the UK proposes to leave the customs union as well."

The outlook for Ireland looks grim – and a world away from the dynamism of the Celtic Tiger days Bruton’s coalition government helped usher in. “There will be all sorts of problems," he said. "Separate permits for truck drivers operating across two jurisdictions, people having to pay for the right to use foreign roads, and a whole range of other issues.” 

Last week, an anti-Brexit protest on the border in Killeen, County Louth, saw mock customs checks bring traffic to a near standstill. But, so far, the discussion around what the future looks like for the 260 border crossings has focused predominantly on its potential effects on Ulster’s fragile peace. Last week Bruton’s successor as Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, warned “any sort of physical border” would be “bad for the peace process”. 

Bruton does not disagree, and is concerned by what the UK’s withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights might mean for the Good Friday Agreement. But he believes the preoccupation with the legacy of violence has distracted British policymakers from the potentially devastating economic impact of Brexit. “I don’t believe that any serious thought was given to the wider impact on the economy of the two islands as a whole," he said. 

The collapse in the pound has already hit Irish exporters, for whom British sales are worth £15bn. Businesses that work across the border could yet face the crippling expense of duplicating their operations after the UK leaves the customs union and single market. This, he says, will “radically disturb” Ireland’s agriculture and food-processing industries – 55 per cent of whose products are sold to the UK. A transitional deal will "anaesthetise" people to the real impact, he says, but when it comes, it will be a more seismic change than many in London are expecting. He even believes it would be “logical” for the UK to cover the Irish government’s costs as it builds new infrastructure and employs new customs officials to deal with the new reality.

Despite his past support for Britain, the government's push for a hard Brexit has clearly tested Bruton's patience. “We’re attempting to unravel more than 40 years of joint work, joint rule-making, to create the largest multinational market in the world," he said. It is not just Bruton who is frustrated. The British decision to "tear that up", he said, "is regarded, particularly by people in Ireland, as a profoundly unfriendly act towards neighbours".

Nor does he think Leave campaigners, among them the former Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers, gave due attention to the issue during the campaign. “The assurances that were given were of the nature of: ‘Well, it’ll be alright on the night!’," he said. "As if the Brexit advocates were in a position to give any assurances on that point.” 

Indeed, some of the more blimpish elements of the British right believe Ireland, wedded to its low corporate tax rates and east-west trade, would sooner follow its neighbour out of the EU than endure the disruption. Recent polling shows they are likely mistaken: some 80 per cent of Irish voters say they would vote to remain in an EU referendum.

Irexit remains a fringe cause and Bruton believes, post-Brexit, Dublin will have no choice but to align itself more closely with the EU27. “The UK is walking away,” he said. “This shift has been imposed upon us by our neighbour. Ireland will have to do the best it can: any EU without Britain is a more difficult EU for Ireland.” 

May, he says, has exacerbated those difficulties. Her appointment of her ally James Brokenshire as secretary of state for Northern Ireland was interpreted as a sign she understood the role’s strategic importance. But Bruton doubts Ireland has figured much in her biggest decisions on Brexit: “I don’t think serious thought was given to this before her conference speech, which insisted on immigration controls and on no jurisdiction for the European Court of Justice. Those two decisions essentially removed the possibility for Ireland and Britain to work together as part of the EEA or customs union – and were not even necessitated by the referendum decision.”

There are several avenues for Britain if it wants to avert the “voluntary injury” it looks set to inflict to Ireland’s economy and its own. One, which Bruton concedes is unlikely, is staying in the single market. He dismisses as “fanciful” the suggestions that Northern Ireland alone could negotiate European Economic Area membership, while a poll on Irish reunification is "only marginally" more likely. 

The other is a variation on the Remoaners’ favourite - a second referendum should Britain look set to crash out on World Trade Organisation terms without a satisfactory deal. “I don’t think a second referendum is going to be accepted by anybody at this stage. It is going to take a number of years,” he said. “I would like to see the negotiation proceed and for the European Union to keep the option of UK membership on 2015 terms on the table. It would be the best available alternative to an agreed outcome.” 

As things stand, however, Bruton is unambiguous. Brexit means the Northern Irish border will change for the worse. “That’s just inherent in the decision the UK electorate was invited to take, and took – or rather, the UK government took in interpreting the referendum.”