Sunday, December 22, 2013

In Everything, A Gift: The Wisdom of Madhu Vidya

This moment is a gift--that is why it is called the "present." Yoga teachers often tell you to focus your attention on the present moment, anchoring to the here and now, coming back to the immediacy of the breath and body. Increasing numbers of psychotherapists will give you similar advice, using techniques such as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, or Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBSR and MBCT).

We live in an exciting era where we are seeing ancient teachings from Eastern wisdom traditions validated by Western science and utilized in various therapeutic settings. Mindfulness teachings (or practices analogous to mindfulness teachings) exist in Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism and Yoga.

In the history of Yoga, the spiritual tradition of Tantra (a Sanskrit word roughly translatable as "expansion leading to liberation") had its greatest influence during the post-classical period, in the time following Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. Some scholars claim that Tantric teachings date back at least 7,000 years, but in the teaching of Yoga, Tantric philosophy came in and shook things up after Patanjali's contributions. Tantra is a non-dualistic spiritual discipline, embracing all experience as a pathway to the Divine. The Yoga Sutras teach that matter and spirit need to be separated in order to evolve consciousness. Patanjali considered the body an impediment or obstacle to developing higher consciousness. Tantric philosophy brought in a different perspective: for Tantric practitioners, the body is used as a vehicle to evolving consciousness; the physical body is seen as a sacred vehicle to enlightenment, so there is an emphasis on nourishing the body and prolonging life. According to Tantra, this body, and everything good and bad that comes with it, is a gift.

In Tantra Yoga, the practice of fully embracing the present moment is called madhu vidya, which means "sweet knowledge" or "honey knowledge." The body is a gift, the present moment is a gift, and fully experiencing the body in the present moment is the path to enlightenment. Click here for an example of tantric mindfulness practice.

“Tantra is the yoga of everything” (Ramesh Bjonnes, The Yoga of Tantric Love: 7 Reasons Why It’s Not Just About Sex). Read the article. The day-to-day peaks and valleys of human existence are the essence of the spiritual journey; this includes suffering, sickness, desire, anger, boredom and vice. Tantra teaches that we can meet the Divine everywhere, in the good and the bad within and without. “This knowledge, this wisdom is called Madhuvidya, or honey knowledge, the idea that the bees of Spirit can turn everything we do and feel, even failure, into nectar” (Id.). Through embracing all experiences, even physical experiences and the great range of human emotions, Tantric yogis make use of vulnerability as a gateway to receive Divine love and compassion. “Tantra is seeing love in everything” (Id.) Tantra is seeing the gift in everything.

The gift is the present. Let's open to this gift, through our practice today. Simply experience your practice, without judgment, and in the fullness of your own embodied presence. Can't get on your mat today? Tantric practice can be any activity or experience as long as you intend it to evolve your consciousness, so open up to the gift of your own experience today, in the wisdom of madhu vidya.

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