Tantra, which many believe to be about nothing more than having pleasurable sex, is actually about the idea of union. Tantra believes that everything is one, so the very act of unifying is sacred. This applies to uniting humans and nature, uniting beings with good deeds, uniting experience and experiencer, and of course, the union of two people in intercourse.

The Tantric view is that everything is an interconnected web of energy. This web makes up all that exists. There are different forms within this web of energy, but they are all the same. Consider the analogy of water; at any given time, it can be a flowing liquid, a floating steam, a frozen block. It could be a little square ice cube or a cloud floating in the sky, but it is all the same.

Thousands of years after this idea was born in Ancient India, we now scientifically understand that all things are made up of combinations of the same atoms and molecules. As the Physicist David Bohm explains, everything in the universe is interconnected space, time, mass and energy.

Humans do not think of their energy as within this interconnected structure even though our energy is born of the food we eat, the liquids we drink, the air we breathe and so on. We tend to think of our experience as separate from the rest of the world, which Albert Einstein describes as “an illusion of our consciousness.”

Our energy is born from many sources and it also arises for us in many ways. An important teaching of Tantra is understanding how to utilize our energy no matter how it appears. What is critical to recognize, with both positive and negative emotions, is that they are energy. Too often we get caught up in the story behind the emotion. We take it personally. If we feel happy we think we are good and if we feel sad we think something is wrong with us. We obsess about why we feel bad and try to cling onto more of what makes us feel good.

We should learn from our emotions, but we should also see them as the energy that they are. Energy that can serve us. This takes practice to take an emotion, a powerful feeling, and turn it into a useful application. We can do this with the heat of anger, the frantic pulsing of fear, or the rush of sexual arousal. This process of turning an emotion into energy we can harness is called sublimation. It’s validity is proven by the first law of thermodynamics: Energy cannot be created or destroyed. 

As renowned Stanford Neurosurgeon James Doty explains, “Energy cannot be created or destroyed. However, energy can change forms and energy can flow from one place to another. That is the gift we are each given. The power of the universe is within us. It is in that stardust that makes up each of us. All that power of creation. All that power of expansion. All that beautiful, simple, synchronized power. Energy can flow from one place to another and it can flow from one person to another.”

Ancient Tantric devotees had practices like sleeping in graves among skulls in order to practice sublimating the power of fear. We don’t need to go quite this far, but we can learn to mindfully observe the energy of the emotion instead of the story behind it. From here, we can learn to intentionally move energy to different chakras. We can find bliss from a feeling of anger. We can turn sexual energy into our ability to express ourselves creatively. This is the liberating potential of sublimation.

Sublimation is the heart of the Tantric teaching that all energy is interconnected in union. If we can learn to see and use energy this way, in all its interconnectedness and all its forms, we can better fuel our life to be the life that we desire.

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