The Great Misunderstanding of Modern Tantric Environments
My natural tendency has always drawn me into spiritual currents related to tantra, which is why I have been navigating among tantric communities for almost 30 years. I started with the Osho centers in Italy and India when I was not yet of age. Now that I am close to fifty, I feel called to share my experience and my reflections, especially on the subject of polyamory and monogamy, and the relationship between this choice and the path of tantra.
Tantra and Polyamory: Is It the Same?
Tantra is a path that embraces life in all its forms. Even couple relationships become a practice of growth and evolution. When you are using sexual energy intensely, especially if you practice red tantra, it is not difficult to understand why the topic of polyamory (intimate relationship with several people at the same time) comes up so often.
What I have observed in my long experience is that in tantric communities, monogamy is often branded as obsolete and limited. Those who choose to be monogamous, the thinking goes, do so only because they have attachments that are, of course, considered an obstacle on the spiritual path. Others argue that monogamy is out of step with the times. That old relational model no longer works and it is time for something different.
I have read blogs of tantra schools that claim that a person who is not polyamorous cannot define themselves as a tantra teacher. Extreme!
My understanding is very different and what I have seen around tantric communities has certainly not made me change my mind.
Growth through Intimacy
I have often encountered many situations where it was quite obvious that the choice of polyamory was not taken to grow and evolve, dissolving all attachment and jealousy, but an excuse to justify a frivolous sex life. Under the flag of non-attachment, people wander from flower to flower without ever stopping for a moment to deepen and truly connect.
Going deep into emotional intimacy with a person can bring up many shadows. This connection stirs the pot and forces you to face the projections and subconscious tendencies that we carry with us from our family of origin. Any psychologist would agree with this.
Being totally open to a person makes you terribly vulnerable. The deeper you go, the more there is the risk of suffering. And yes, in relationships you usually suffer at some point, at least in the truly evolutionary ones. Our human tendency is to recreate the painful situations of childhood to overcome them internally; this also is recognized by modern psychology.
We meet, we feel attracted to each other, then the honeymoon phase where only the beauty comes out… but sooner or later the mask falls and the shadows come out. Believe me. Every time. (Unless you’re already a little enlightened!) But that is precisely the beauty of the relationship! This part is the one that’s really important to the process: an opportunity to become aware of your unconscious tendencies, to look inside, to dissolve, and let go.
Seeing the Infinite in the Same Partner
But why should I go to all this trouble if I can simply escape to another partner?
Much easier, right? I avoid suffering—but I also avoid growing.
An obvious question arises here: “Is it not possible to go into this emotional depth with several people at the same time?”
I don’t have a simple answer here. Human beings and relationships are extremely complex and I don’t feel like taking rigid positions.
What I have seen, however, is that all too often, tantric environments are populated by people (especially men, I must admit) who use the name of tantra to justify a life of frivolous and shallow relationships.
Tantra, including red tantra, can be practiced both in a monogamous couple and in a polyamorous arrangement. This choice is very personal and has nothing to do with the spiritual path.
One can practice tantra with the same partner for life.
At the end of the day, in the tantric sexual practice, you cultivate an attitude of transfiguration. The person you face is transfigured into the universal masculine principle (Shiva) and universal feminine principle (Shakti). So it is impossible to get bored of the same person because in front of your eyes you have the incarnation of a divinity.
Without transfiguration, it is not Tantra!
Monogamy or Polyamory: a Comparison
Both options can bring something positive to your personal and spiritual growth. If you are reflecting on these two choices, here is some food for thought to help you choose in a way aligned with your inner integrity, free from socio-cultural conditioning but without trying to escape from something profound that could make you grow.
- Monogamy can be a very safe container. However, it can often turn into a comfort zone used only for shelter and protection. The positive aspect of this relational model is that it brings a lot of depth, as mentioned above, and often brings to light all our projections. A conscious monogamous couple is an excellent opportunity to work together on these patterns and let them go. This journey made together, in a couple, can open up to incredible levels of emotional intimacy and union.
The downside of monogamy is that it’s easy to develop a strong (and spiritually unhealthy) attachment to your partner. Remember that nothing is forever. Sooner or later, you will have to let go. Even in the lucky case that you will be together all your life, sooner or later death comes for everyone.
- Polyamory opens up to an idea of truly expanded and universal love, but often the emotional connection within any particular relationship is less, and having another person can also be an escape. Although the ideal is there, the action might only come from greed dictated by the ego. Here we also are faced with the case where there is not so much attachment for a partner but there is attachment to the fun of going from bed to bed. Or an attachment to feeling “cool” for men, or like a “sex bomb” for women.
- A polyamorous relationship makes sense if everyone involved is comfortable and happy, and this usually only happens if true and sincere love flows among the participants. Love is the essential element for it to flow harmoniously.
- Monogamy, especially for couples who have been together for a long time, can lead to a somewhat stagnant energy, even on a sexual level. It may be difficult to keep the fire of passion alive. It is easy to end up taking yourself and your partner for granted. When you get too used to your partner’s presence, it might no longer have the same effect on you. Then boredom sets in. The remedy is to always renew yourselves as individuals outside of the couple: grow, learn new things, take on new projects. After all, we are different people every day. Can you see this constant transformation in the person in front of you?
- Having several partners keeps sexual energy very vital and renewed, but it is not for everyone and can trigger terrible suffering from jealousy. My best advice is to listen to yourself and really understand what your needs are, not just those of your partner. Do not accept, for any reason, situations that do not make you feel good just to please your partner or for the fear that he or she will leave you. Prolonged suffering makes the body sick and leaves deep wounds in the heart. This makes it difficult to open up again and trust. If you are proposing this choice to your significant other, make sure you are not hurting them and creating bad karma. This too is a great obstacle on a spiritual level.
As we have seen, there are advantages and disadvantages to both choices and millions of facets that can exist between these two different options.
The important thing about monogamy and polyamory is to constantly check to be aligned with your own inner truth and to truly act from the heart, from pure unconditional love. Only in this way can the relationship, in whatever form it manifests itself, be a true way for personal growth and spiritual evolution.