Impotence and Tantra

Impotence and Tantra: How An Ancient Practice Can Shed New Light On A Modern Issue

Tantra is an ancient practice of breath and energy work that originated in Hinduism, and later migrated into Buddhism. The tantras are ancient texts that span from the the 5th to the 8th century. Each discourse represents a software for running the human body. Together they offer a kind of “stealth” spiritual technology that can help reconcile our spiritual and sexual natures.

Of the original 64 texts, only six refer to sexual practice. Due to a childhood sleeping disorder, I have been a practitioner of Tibetan Dream Yoga, another of the tantras, since age nine. When people learn I consider myself a devotional Tantric, they often plunge into questions not about dreams or breath work, but about sex.

A twenty eight year old man once confided a very private, yet common, sexual concern. He told me that although he thought about sex a lot, when it actually came to having sex, he no longer felt interested or excited. In the past he had many positive sexual encounters. Although he still continued to be aroused looking at sexy photos and film, he was concerned that he was becoming impotent.

Thinking about sex and looking at pornography are both mental activities. Notice that I said he told me he didn’t “feel” interested, or “feel” excited anymore. This is because his sexuality had moved into his “head”. Sex in Tantra transcends the mind; it is a synergetic act of the body, soul, & spirit. The mind is useful in your choice of potential partners and for preparing for love play (candles, condoms, or comforts), but in actual lovemaking it should be set aside.

Many people approach sex with the same attitude as going to the gym: mental, goal oriented. In tantric lovemaking however, our attitude will be more a kin to meditation and prayer. (Meditation being when we “listen” to God-Goddess, prayer being when we “talk to” God-Goddess). Lets talk about what these two approaches look like in our sexuality.

First of all, the mind holds fear. When we are in our “minds”, we are constantly judging, analyzing, and trying to control an outcome. We are thinking about our performance, or our partner’s performance, what we look like, or comparing our lover or ourselves to other lovers or even fantasy lovers. This means we are living in the past, or living in the future, and we are not being in our “present”. Nothing is less satisfying than being with a lover who does not “show up” energetically.

When we move our sexuality out of the mind it goes directly into the heart. It feels as different as a one-night stand versus being with someone we deeply love. In meditation we pay attention to our breathing. We breathe into total relaxation, we are present. That “presence” becomes our “present” to our lover. We are genuinely connecting with each other energetically; to our divinity.

The problem with approaching sex from the mind is it is also where we create stress and anxiety. Without meditation, these become tension in our bodies. When men experience tension, their blood pressure is affected and the valves that regulate the blood steam of their body’s arteries are also the valves that affect the lingam’s* ability to have an erection. As a rule, stress is the culprit behind impotence as it constricts the blood flow into the lingam.

When we stay in the present while lovemaking, from that place of one-ness with spirit, we are not attached to outcomes or performance. Each moment is sacred, a gift. Time slows down. Shame and guilt fall away as we fall into the divinity of our partner. We see ourselves in them. Touch them as we would want to be touched, kiss them as we would like to be kissed, hold them in the safety and light we feel when we surrender to spirit. It is surprisingly erotic to those who have never tried it.

Even though the most sexually dysfunctional man will have at least five erections during his sleep cycle lasting nearly half an hour, his waking mind, when filled with stress or tension, will create impotence. Meditation relaxes the body and is the secret of sexually empowered tantric men.

For those who may be put off by the idea of meditating, there are many forms that fit different lifestyles. One of its primary benefits is learning how to breathe correctly. Most people do not.

The way we naturally breathe as a baby or when we sleep is to expand our abdominal muscles when we inhale and contract them when we exhale. The air you breath in through your nose should go all the way down to your belly. An ancient proverb states: The nose is for breathing, the mouth is for eating”.

Controlling your breath will greatly help your heart not work as hard as well as help your immune system. During normal intercourse, the rhythm of breathing with sexual movements is synchronized spontaneously. Reversing or desynchronizing breathing during sex can help control the length and stamina of your experience.

If breathwork still seems a bit of a bother remember it could be worse. An East African Tutsi cure for impotence involves the man sleeping with his Mother.

Study for Prometheus
Study for Prometheus. 18th.century. Jean Grandjean Dutch 1752–1781. Charcoal on paper

*Lingam is the tantric word for Penis.


Featured Image: 18th Century Drawing by Francois Boucher, Ecole Nationale Supérieure Des Beaux-Arts, Paris