For centuries, philosophers and spiritual teachers have debated our relationship with desire.
Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, and Hinduism teach practitioners that desire leads to immense suffering. In order to be liberated and attain enlightenment, suppression of desires and passions is an absolute to achieve one’s spiritual aspirations.
Tantra yoga, born of Kashmiri Shaivism some five or six thousand years ago, provides the mystical path for those seeking a sensorial and conscious evolution.
Desire is part of the feast for the senses and a portal to engage pleasure, along with passion, emotions, and awakened depths of spontaneity.
Writer and academic of Kashmir Shaivism Daniel Odier writes,
“You will discover that if you can find pleasure in presence, then your joy no longer depends on exceptional circumstances waited for in a state of neurotic tension but on simple reality as it presents itself moment to moment.”
Rejoice in our passions, curiosities, and desires, and welcome the rupture that comes with suffering, for they are all part of what makes us human.
Keep reading to develop your understanding of Tantra yoga. This blog post shares how contemporary artists express their passion of curiosity and the eight yoga classes to spark your creativity on Practice with Clara.
Its teachings invite the practitioner to live the full experience of what it means to be human, to open to the totality of finding joy in the small, subtle, and insubstantial of the everyday.
The Shaivites believed that enlightenment was attainable in the here and now simply by being present in each moment.
In his book, Desire: The Tantric Path to Awakening, Odier notes the renowned Indian guides Ramakrishna, Sri Aurobindo, Vivekananda, and Ramana Maharshi as Tantrikas.
Tantra means ‘loom’ or ‘weave’ to marry the physical body with the spiritual.
It is non-dualistic, meaning what you seek is already within you. There is no Divine, secret, or special knowledge that you do not already have within you.
Tantra is the practice of recognizing the Divine within and embodying its presence in every action and sensory experience. It honors the masculine (Shiva) and feminine (Shakti) that create each individual.
“The first question that bears asking is this: Is it possible to lead our whole lives with passion and thus avoid feeling the earthquakes of passion’s emergence into a life that has previously negated it? Many reasonable people would answer that passion inevitably leads to suffering. Indeed, the word passion comes from the Latin passion, which means ‘suffering.’” — Daniel Odier.
With a rich history and roots in Tantra yoga for over 30 years, Odier has studied with Tibetan master Kalou Rinpoche and Kashmiri Shaiva master yogini Lalita Devi. His work reveals the profound and playful nature of the Tantrika, who embodies presence as the recourse for suffering.
The passion of curiosity, for Odier, would be to reacquaint ourselves with the simple, practical pleasures of our day-to-day. To Odier, breathing is the most basic and essential step in connecting with the source of pleasure.
“Pleasure is an essential element of the Tantric practice because once we find pleasure in presence, we have a natural tendency to return to it. It is thus no longer a practice but a way in which to savor life and our sensoriality more fully, and this is the basis of all the subsequent practices.
The effects of conscious breathing or partially conscious breathing are extraordinary:
Our breath is the most accessible tool to transform how we feel.
The body is connected to the sensory experience; touch, sight, taste, sound, and scent. All contribute to shaping our perception of the world and provide access to a more robust understanding of the world around us.
The body is the home of our passion, the censor of desire, and the vessel that contains the initial spark for creativity to flow.
“Today, our desire, our passion, is to find absolute freedom, love, and plenitude without being bound hand and foot. We want to leave behind our ancestral guilt and accept the body wholly: It is our only door into infinite reality. Without the body, we would be nothing. With it, we can be everything.”
— Daniel Odier.
“I am a big advocate for the pursuit of curiosity. You’ve maybe heard me talk about this before? We are constantly being told to pursue our passions in life, but there are times when passion is a TALL ORDER, and really hard to reach. In seasons of confusion, of loss, of boredom, of insecurity, of distraction, the idea of “passion” can feel completely inaccessible and impossible. In such times, you are lucky to be able to get your laundry done (that sometimes feels as high as you can aim) and when someone tells you to follow your passion, you want to give them the middle finger. (Go ahead and do it, by the way. But wait till their back is turned, out of civility.)
But curiosity, I have found, is always within reach.
Passion is a tower of flame, but curiosity is a tiny tap on the shoulder — a little whisper in the ear that says, ‘Hey, that’s kind of interesting…’
Passion is rare; curiosity is every day.
Curiosity is, therefore, a lot easier to reach times than full-on passion — and the stakes are lower and easier to manage.
The trick is to just follow your small moments of curiosity.
It doesn’t take a massive effort. Just turn your head an inch. Pause for an instant. Respond to what has caught your attention. Look into it a bit. Is there something there for you? A piece of information?
For me, a lifetime devoted to creativity is nothing but a scavenger hunt — where each successive clue is another tiny little hit of curiosity. Pick each one up, unfold it, and see where it leads you next.
Keep doing that, and I promise you: The curiosity will eventually lead you to the passion.”
“I was recently listening to an interview on On Being with Elizabeth Gilbert and this idea of passion versus curiosity came up. I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVED it.
Curiosity is process orientated; it keeps you present in such a conscious way, whereas passion takes over the experience.
I think of when I have felt passion, either when watching performance art, eating delicious food, or being intimate with my lover…the world as I know it falls away and all that is left is what I’m focusing on.
Now, I’m not against passion, but as Gilbert said so eloquently, it can be a tall order. When passion arises, I allow it to take over. However, I try not to seek it.
As we have learned on the spiritual path, seeking passion or any very strong emotion creates suffering in some way, shape, or form if it is not attained or maintained.
A more manageable quest is to ask if I can stay curious about life, love, the practice, and myself.
This is a way for me to stay engaged in the world versus being complacent or at the mercy of the situation.
A few definitions of curious: eager to learn or know, inquisitive.
I was recently listening to an interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates, and he said something that struck me. He said, ‘Be clear about what you know and what you don’t know.’
To add to that, then go seeking what you want to know. The idea that the process of learning/seeking is a scavenger hunt resonated with me, that you have to stay engaged throughout the whole process. Read the clues, connect the dots and move to the next clue.
By doing so, you’ll find one day, as Rilke puts it simply, ‘you’ll live your way to the answers.'”
Nothing is done in Tantric Yoga to obtain some future gratification; on the contrary, it offers practices whose fruits are immediately present in the practice itself.
In this way, we breathe solely to experience the profound harmony of breathing- nothing else. — Daniel Odier.
In The Science of Creative Insight & Yoga, research shows that yoga helps creatives achieve the ‘eureka’ moment by releasing alpha brain waves.
Moving your body and breathing deep connect you to a state of presence and relaxation. John Hopkins Medicine shares the 9 benefits of Yoga, and Harvard Health shows yoga’s Benefits Beyond the Mat.
Prostration Namaskars open the practice with a moving meditation. There is no peak pose.
A fluid class featuring mandala namaskars from Prana Flow Yoga creates space and length in the body to prepare you for deep twists.
A strong vinyasa class that works toward Parsva Bakasana (side crow) as the peak pose.
Strengthen the legs and core. This class progresses towards ustrasana, camel pose, with several variations. Inversions and hip opening close this class.
A slow flow yoga class that features twists and leg strengthening with several types of pranayama including Kapalbhati, Bhastrika, Kumbhaka, and Sushumna Flossing.
A vigorous vinyasa practice that moves toward Surya Yantrasana (compass pose) and Astavakrasana (eight-angle pose) as the peak postures.
Backbends, twists, wrist stretches, and kapalbhati pranayama create heat and a sense of spaciousness in the body.
Books by Daniel Odier that were considered for the content of this article.