In the tantric tradition, Shiva and Shakti are understood esoterically. For initiates it’s taught that Shiva is awareness, the still silent, open, quiet presence and Shakti is flowing energy, including every emotion, every thought, every experience, every phenomenon. Shakti and Shiva are in love, they are a couple, metaphorically. This is just a metaphor. They’re in love because they’re constantly intimate with each other because awareness holds space for energy and energy flows through awareness.
And if it’s not impeded its flow is part of the beauty of life. You know, so Shiva and Shakti are depicted making love in the metaphorical image. This, by the way, is the main cause of the whole misunderstanding about tantra in the West, was the experience of God and goddess making love. Whoa, that’s a cool religion, let’s just have sex and call it religion. But, the image was metaphorical. You know, not to say there’s no sexual ritual in tantra, but primarily the image was metaphorical. Meaning, Shiva and Shakti are making love because it’s awareness and energy delighting in each other, which is happening inside of us all the time, if we just open to it. Making love creates a feeling of bliss when it’s done. And in the same way, realizing the intimacy, the awareness and energy delighting each other, that’s blissful. It’s joyful to realize that, or to directly experience that.
The axis of perception
The last main point I wanted to make, which is an important point in the tradition, is also something I’ve directly experienced as well. I was talking before about how the true heart is not localizable, and yet you access it at first through a location. That’s one way to access it.
In the tantric tradition, there’s this notion of a central channel of energy and access of energy that runs from the crown of the head to the pelvic floor, or from the pelvic floor to the crown of the head. It’s the central energetic pillar of your being. It’s the inner access of energy, right? This is something everyone experiences. All your powerful experiences occur on this axis, everything from sexual excitement and sexual pleasure, to gut instinct. We call it gut instinct, or intuitive capacity; emotions and the heart region; our vocal chords that we communicate with the so-called third eye, point of insight, right? Everything of deep significance to us experientially happens on this axis.
So, you investigate that whole access of energy, all the sensations that can occur on that access of energy and which, by the way, also connects to birth. Women give birth, the baby is delivered out of the base of this access of energy, right? Because it’s not exactly the same as the physical spine. It’s a little bit deeper inside the body. The base of it is the pelvic floor, not the coccyx of the spine. The base of the central channel is the pelvic floor. So that’s where the baby comes out if you’re a woman, right?
So, birth, life, death, the spirit has said to exit out of the crown of the head. You investigate all those experiences and inner reality, the core of your being, but especially there’s a special significance, like I said, to the Lotus of the heart, which is positioned midway between. Why is that significant? Because up and out the crown of the head, that’s the direction of trying to transcend reality, reaching a higher plane of consciousness.
Down here in the base of the body, that’s the place of our more animal nature, not meaning that in a negative sense at all, it’s just a more mammal, mammalian and animal nature at the base of the body more. So, the heart therefore is felt to be, or visualized at the midpoint where imminent embodiment and transcendent absolute, meet. That’s one way of defining the heart. It’s where our embodiment as animals and our divinity, as pure consciousness, meet. It’s this singularity.
So, by investigating this center point. In terms of my personal experience, when I started out in the practice, my essence-nature, my heart with a capital “H,” was like a secret, small, wonderful place deep inside; hidden away as a hidden treasure, in a secret, sacred, tiny place. The more I went into it I discovered a singularity. The more I went into the center point, the more it opened out into everything until it started to include everything. So that’s the paradox. It makes no sense rationally, necessarily. By going deeper into the center point, we call the heart, you discover that the heart is everything. There’s a path to get there and that is the uniting of our embodied nature and our divine nature, realizing their oneness at that meeting point. It’s like a wormhole almost where it opens out into everything, it connects to everything.
What’s interesting is that my experience, and many other people I’ve talked to, is that the heart goes from being the small secret, sacred place, deep inside, to being the vastness of being. It feels like it’s vast. So, for me, the heart used to be buried under a whole bunch of stuff, there’s heavy layers of my stuff—stuff that’s wrong with me. Over time with the practice, instead of a small place buried under all that stuff, it becomes this big, vast openness. And what I previously thought I am—my personality, my memories, my identity—is like a little film, like the oil on the surface of the water. Imagine a vast lake, the little oil floating on top. It just took time to realize that, and for this experiential shift from the heart as this little thing to the heart as this big thing, and everything else that I am is just a thin film on top of it.
Feeling into your center is the most courageous thing you can do
The thing I would like to say to the people who are listening, because I think you already know it, but I’ll say to the listeners. This really works. What I invite you to do is take a leap of faith that there is something extraordinary about you that doesn’t need to be proven, that doesn’t form part of your self-image. We go looking to make ourselves extraordinary, when we already are. We go looking to prove ourselves to others because we’re not in touch with the innate wonder, the innate extraordinary being. So just to take this leap of faith that everyone who’s ever truly investigated their innermost heart has discovered this extraordinary presence there. If they’re patient enough. So, it’s unlikely that you will be the first person in history to really look in there and not find it. It just takes a little bit more patience than you might like it to take. But it really works. And it’s such a blessed relief to not have to prove yourself to others, not have to make your mark, but instead allow life to move through you and reside in your sacred center. So, take the leap of faith.
Here’s a practical thing, it doesn’t have to be a meditation cushion or formal way of sitting, or you don’t have to close your eyes, you don’t have to do anything in terms of all those mechanics. But, at least once a day, sort of just feel into your center, or as near to your center as you can get, and just kind of affirm, “I’m willing to feel whatever needs to be felt. I’m willing to see whatever needs to be seen. I’m making myself available.” It’s just that—showing up. That’s all you need to do.
Fundamentally, you don’t need any other practice. Some might be beneficial, but you don’t need any other practice than this. Just looking inside. Is there something that needs to be felt, or am I willing to feel whatever needs to be felt for the next five minutes or ten minutes.
It helps to get a little bit quiet, to breathe and just get a little bit quiet. If you don’t quiet down a little bit, then you’ll just generally watch your spinning mind. Just kind of quieting down a little bit, in order to do that you have to reduce the stress in your life. If you’re overly stressed and anxious, you can’t quiet down enough to hear the deepest inner voice. So, it’s worth doing that.