Tag Archives: tantra

New Le Cool Preview – Tantra

After a long hiatus I returned to the Le Cool fold with an article about tantric sex, as you do.

Le Cool Tantra spot

Le Cool Tantra spot

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Spiti

Leah left us in the early morning to head back for a Tantra workshop in Dharamsala which left Sev and I alone. I don’t think Siddarth wanted us to leave as his instructions on how to catch the bus were somewhat reluctantly given but we walked down the hill to the main road and then waited by the chicken shop for about 2 hours. As we are cursing Siddarth the bus eventually comes and Caroline, a French girl we met in Peo is sitting at the front.

We have to stand for some time but eventually arrive at Nako where we stay in an odd room with the most terrifying water heating system I have ever seen. The village is amazing though and we walk up to a past the lake to a pass where we see even more mountains.

It is our first experience of walking at really high altitudes and is noticeable but exhilarating – Sev climbs to the top of a rocky outcrop where for a moment I consider what I would do if he didn’t come back.

There is an old monastery here, a shop that sells Nutella and we find a place with some decent Tibetan food.
Our next stop is Tabo with its very old monastery and meditation caves up the hill.
The road here is particularly treacherous, with steep drops, narrow roads where the bus has to pull over often to allow trucks and cars coming the other way to pass and often you are driving seemingly through the side off the cliff that has been hollowed out.
The bus stop is an incongruous start coming from this direction as you approach the edge of town surrounded by big, ugly, modern buildings, part of some sort of agricultural centre and stop in a big car park.
Things change when we get up early and hear the Monks giving a puja in the new monastery, however. It is a beautiful, meditative experience and the first meditation that I had done for a while.

The ancient mud walled monastery has some incredible frescoes and statues in its dark corners (torches very necessary) and is still well used by the community of Sangha here.
We find a restaurant with a load of local food on the menu, and being adventurous we order about 6 dishes between the 3 of us. This prompts great activity as the 4 staff jump up from their TV watching and begin moving. Two rush out to the market while the others start preparing and soon all four are beavering away in the kitchen leaving new customers unserved as our feast is cooked up in a dervish. The tsampa porridge with Yak Cheese was a bit disappointing but the other dishes were great. A local type of Momo which was more like a Cornish Pastry, another Momo that was similar to normal and a “local” thali, which was a slight variation on the normal sabji.


Our next stop, off the main road and up a hill overlooking the valley and river is the mighty Dhankar, a village pretty much situated on top of a rock.

There is a monastery here as well (of course) and an old fort, although that is pretty much derelict.

The monastery is literally balanced on a rock, on the edge of the world. We were given tea by the monks there as we looked around and climbed onto the roof.

It was here that we stayed with Anil and his family in a basic but beautiful little homestay at the top of the village. He helped us wash our clothes in the stream, served us home cooked food and then took us on a five day trek.

He has worked with Ecosphere who do a lot of great work in this very impoverished region and Caroline had heard people who had done a similar walk from village to village, ending up at the main hub of Kaza.

After a couple of days exploring the village, visiting the beautiful lake and doing yoga on his terrace we set off for the first town…

The first day in blistering sun took us on an easy 4 hour hike to the village of Lalung along dusty paths and into the wilderness of Spiti. As well as the three of us we had Anil as guide, Tenzin our young porter and the donkeys, later to be named Prem and Dill. We were shown the ancient monastery here, a theme in all parts of the valley, and spent some time meditating by a beautiful tree.

That night we sat and practiced our Momo making skills with the family – mine leave something to be desired but it was nice to have something other than rice and dal to eat.

Day two saw an easy start and then a very difficult second section after crossing the river. We had to climb 800m on this day and the majority was straight up on a steep series of switchbacks. I found untapped energy during this, listening to the Prodigy and storming ahead but we were all knackered by the time we reached Dhomul at the top of the hill. We were fed tsampa porridge with Yak cheese when we arrived and it was significantly better than in Tabo – really tasty actually, but it did include a big heap of sugar which might have helped.

The basic family room was comfortable enough and the corridor was filled with cow dung to be used as fuel for the long winter.

In the morning we had omlette and parantha (as usual) before setting off on the next stage.
This was the day we reached our highest point, the Dhomul pass at roughly 4500m with snow covering the sides of the path and the wind whistling a shrill and freezing breeze around us we only stopped long enough for a quick photo.

Our next stop was slightly lower at Komik where I wasn’t feeling the best. We had a look around the monastery, one of the biggest in the region, but all bar two of the monks were away attending a ceremony in Kaza. The guesthouse was pleasant enough although the large windows made the room a little cold and I couldn’t really stomach much dinner.
The next day we set off for Langza which would be the highest place we would stop at 4325m. We approached through some fields and scanned the whole village before finding the homestay (Anil’s first choice was full.) Sev wanted to go on a search for fossils so we went to a dried up riverbed but I was more interested in the huge herd of animals, yaks, cows, goats, donkeys, sheep etc that were grazing down there. I went and checked out the monastery and the big Buddha statue on the hill and the place felt noticeably closer to civilisation, being just up the road from Kaza.

During this time we spent our evenings watching Arrested Development on my laptop – it’s great by the way. I think this is the best episode…

One night we watched I heart Huckabees which seemed to mirror what was going on in the trek… Caroline and I loved it but Sev wasn’t so sure. (He preferred The Expendables..) For me though I realised that, having watched Huckabees after my last trip to South East Asia and really enjoyed it, this movie could have been my first introduction to Buddhist ideas and explains a lot how I took to Buddhism very quickly. I mean the film isn’t explicit in this, it very cleverly talks philosophy without really specifying where the ideas come from and the techniques clearly aren’t Buddhist per se but the concepts.. oh yeah.

Kaza is the administrative centre of Spiti and finds itself cut off from the rest of India for most of the year when the nearby road to Manali is closed. The town itself is nice though, split into old and new Kaza by a small river but there isn’t too much to distinguish. There is a modern Gompa which is great and I saw the monks doing a big puja with horns, cymbals and drums – one of the more dramatic ceremonies I have attended.
We spent a couple of days winding down from the trek, though, eating Indian sweets and pastries from the German Bakery and enjoying the things we hadn’t been able to get on the trek. Sev and I did a trip up to Kibber for the night, which used to be the highest village in the world with a road (although there are now places higher in Tibet.) We walked down to see Ki Gompa, one of the most famous monasteries in this region and found ourselves on one of the steepest paths we had been on..

Looking back where we had walked from it was hard to believe we had just come down what looked like a sheer cliff face!
The Gompa was impressive as you can see but we found ourselves without a lift back to Kaza and started walking. At first we thought, there will be something we can hitch-hike soon. After a while, with all the traffic going in the opposite direction, it became clear we would have to walk the 11Km back to Kaza – we got a lift for maybe the last 1 or 2 K but pretty much walked the whole way..!

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Ko Phagnan Part 3

So Allison and Alex started off by asking if we were “From Agama” the local yoga school and we continued by comparing stories about India, spirituality and the reality we live in.

I loved it, I’m not sure Marion was quite as interested (having already had an earful of philosophy from me earlier)

They told us all about the school and some of the things they had learnt (without mentioning the Tantra element actually) and I took it as a total sign that I had to go to this place. We were the last ones at the restaurant and I left having arranged to meet Alex and Allison at a lecture on the Bhagavad Gita the following night.

Agama is a controversial school but I didn’t realise that until a little while later. I was confused a little at my first Yoga class when people asked me if I knew what I was “letting myself in for” but to be honest I didn’t find it intimidating and I think there are a lot of insubstatiated stories. Certainly from the first lecture I found the Swami immensely well read, very knowledgeable and a good speaker. I’m not sure I felt in the presence of a realised being but this large Romanian guy in orange robes with quite a brash manner perhaps just doesn’t fit my restricted idea of a guru.

Marion and I spent several days together, hanging out at various beaches and exploring before we went to the Half Moon Party. I had spent a long day at Agama, walking to both the morning and afternoon classes as well as staying for the lecture with Nadine, the sparkly eyed German who Marion had met on the bus and had been another pointer to Agama, having completed the first level course previously.

I didn’t really fancy the party after this long day but Marion and I had been planning to go so I didn’t want to pull out last minute. I probably should have though because she knew some French guys there and we ended up hanging out with them. The guys were alright although it was pure Gallic Drama as one had injured his leg meaning his holiday may be cut short while his companion was in the grip of great despair due to not wanting to travel alone. I had a traditional bucket of Sang Som with Red Bull and Coke to try and enjoy the party but apart from the fire show which was, in equal parts enchanting and extremely dangerous it wasn’t really a great do.

It was this night and the resulting hangover which made me decide to quit drinking, for a while at least, and I went a good month before having anything again.

Meanwhile, the Yoga was really interesting, I arrived on the last day of week 2 of the 1st level 1 month intensive course. This proved to be a good day to start since we were taught what I would call Agama’s “Special Move” the ultimate energy-sublimation asana, Uddiyanda Bandha. This involves exhaling through the mouth to empty the lungs and then doing a “fake inhalation” pulling the chest up and navel towards the spine with knees bent and hands on the thighs to hold the exhale with a concave stomach. This causes energy to rise up the spine, moving it from the lower chakras.

The Class in general is characterised by its intense focus on these energy centres and movement, either bringing in cosmic energy from above or channelling through the Telluric Earth energy from below.

This is achieved by concentrating on particular chakras during the Asanas but also by holding the postures for much longer than I am used to.

I liked the slow, reflective and meditative style though and the classes were certainly challenging, leading to a deep final relaxation.

My first day was a big one because as well as Uddiyanda Bandha the evening lecture (led by Swami Vivekananda) was about the Yogic concept of Brahmacharya which is basically Sexual Continence.

Interpreted by most as meaning a celibate path is the only way to enlightenment, Tantra sees things differently. Outlining that the real reason behind Brahmacharya is preventing the loss of Ojas and not specificially refraining from sex.

Ojas is described in ayurveda and is a kind of “life force” which is lost in large amounts through ejaculation for men and so it is understandable that there is a correlation.

The ascetic path which takes the “fastest” route to enlightenment by cutting out all opportunities to failure by for example heading off to a cave, teaches celibacy as a way of cutting out the sexual urge at the root. Tantra however, teaches the mantra “sublime, sublime, sublime” that this energy can be harnessed and transferred to higher chakras to actually aid in spiritual development

For men this means giving up ejaculation, and in the short term the orgasm – we learnt that the two are not explicitly linked.

Orgasm causes certain muscle contractions which cause ejaculation but the two can be separated (although this takes a while)

This means that with practice and by offering the fruits to the divine it is possible for men to have multiple orgasms without ejaculation.

So maybe you can see why this school has a slightly “odd” reputation – I should clarify that some of the details here weren’t taught in this initial lecture – in fact Swami made a point of keeping away from the sexual side since the yoga classes are kept totally aside from the “tantric” side.

However, I did attend the separate “mens meeting” and after much deliberation I did sign up for the one week Tantra Level One workshop.

It turned out to be much more Sex-ed than I was expecting or really hoping for…!

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