Note: John Mann hosted Healing Tao Retreats at Big Indian, N.Y. in the 80’s and 90’s, and experimented with various tantric and alchemical practices. This method, based on two people sitting opposite and gazing into each other’s eyes, is designed to allow the subtle bodies of each person to spontaneously re-balance and dissolve held patterns of resistance. I teach it in my Healing Love couples retreats and have found it an extremely effective form of relational alchemy. -Michael Winn
Silent Tantra, a.k.a. Divine Androgyny, or the Tao of Doing Nothing Together
by John Mann
Further information about Silent Tantra and available publications, can be obtained at:
?divine androgyny.com.? or via e-mail at ?DAcenter@earthlink.net?.
What does the term ?Silent Tantra? mean? Is it a sensual ritual conducted between a man and a woman in which no words are spoken? Yes and no.
Is it a technique of spiritual evolvement utilizing all human qualities? In a sense.
Is it something that you do? Not exactly. Something happens but its not because of what you do. Rather it happens because of what you do not do.
The more you try and pin it down, the more elusive it becomes. And yet it is the essence of simplicity. In its classic form a man and a woman sit facing each other with their eyes open and do nothing at all. What could be simpler than that!
Because they are aware of one another, but are otherwise in a state of effortless surrender, they represent the basic archetype of the human relationship. They are not trying to do anything in particular, but just for that reason everything is possible. Unlike traditional meditation, they do not try to shut out the everyday world. In fact they do not try to avoid anything that is within, between or beyond them.
Paradoxically, this is possible because neither one is try to influence the other and, to the extent that they are truly surrendered, harmony is established between them. This occurs through a natural process of energy exchange that arises out of mutual awareness.
We always have some kind of energetic reaction when we become aware of another person, But it is colored by our own intent and what we feel the other might want. This does not usually tend toward harmony, but rather to subtle attempts at controlling the other person to achieve our own goals.
When the effort to control is surrendered, spontaneous energetic reactions are free to flow. What follows is a natural process of attunement, much like the quieting of a pond when the wind stops blowing. When one experiences the imminent reality of this effortless relationship, there is a recognition of its sacred character. One realizes that an energetic oasis has been temporarily created into which a more refined and spiritual energy can flow.
This is the beginning of the process of Silent Tantra.
But how does it develop?
It is different for each person and at each time that they meet, so it is misleading to generalize. But to give a taste of the possibilities, the following are journal extracts kept by a woman named Christina Flynn about a series of six daily session that we had together on the telephone after a lengthy period in which we had not been sitting together. While Silent Tantra usually occurs in person, these sessions demonstrate that physical presence is not required.
How does Silent Tantra benefit the couple
Some sense of the effect of the process can be gleaned from Christina Flynn?s journal entrees, but the most relevant and convincing answer can only come from one?s own experience.
The process of spiritual evolvement is universal. Each of the major traditions approach it in a somewhat different way, but the process itself does not vary. What is unique about spiritual evolvement in Silent Tantra is that it is completely effortless. There are no techniques, no beliefs and no hierarchy.
The process typically unfolds in successive stages.
First, you begin to relax physically and surrender experientially by letting go of anything to which you are attached as you become aware of it.
Second, as you are in the presence of the other with your eyes open, your very surrender will allow a deeper awareness of them without any particular effort on your part. If they are also surrendering, you will begin to become aware of their essential nature, rather than just their superficial personality.
Third, you will spontaneously react to your awareness of them. It will be positive in the sense that a relaxed awareness of a leaf, flower or a small child is innately positive. If you have any negative experience, it is because the process of opening to another is touching on some unresolved issues in yourself concerning trust, vulnerability and the need to control. Whenever anything of that nature spontaneously arises, it is only necessary to allow it to reveal itself. The purification of the motive will occur naturally, as long as you continue to be willing to do nothing in its presence..
Fourth, your spontaneous appreciation of the other and their spontaneous appreciation of you will inevitably pass into a quality of mutual basking in each other?s presence that is inherently enjoyable.
Fifth, love will arise. You are not giving anything other than what occurs spontaneously. In turn you receive something essential and natural from the other. One has to be grateful for such an effortless exchange. One cannot help loving that which loves and appreciates your own deeper nature; the surest sign of which is that they want to expose themselves to it.
Sixth, out of love, blending begins to occur. Since coming together is a direct threat to the ego, it can only begin under the influence of Love. However because Love is arising from surrender, rather than attachment, the usual fear that occurs when we become involved with another is neutralized as fast as it appears by the simple experience of letting go of attachment as it forms. In this manner the blending is free to proceed.
Eventually this produces a Heavenly Environment that is the outcome of two polarized beings beginning to become one. On the earth there is only duality, but in Heaven everything is integrated, intrinsically androgynous. That is what makes it Heaven. By the creation of a Celestial Environment between the couple, this integration can begin to occur on earth.
Seventh, from the act of blending, cellular awakening is initiated. The love with which we are ordinarily familiar doesn?t produce this effect because it is not free. Usually the more we open to one another, the more involved we become with them. We experience them more fully but are increasingly captivated. We don?t care that we have lost our liberty, because the experience itself feels so good. We have expanded out ego to include the other, but at the cost of tending to shut out everyone else.
Eighth, cellular awakening leads to cellular blending between the partners which permit?s the fertilization of a new form of sacred expression, which can be called ? The Invisible Child?. This constitutes the beginning of a new cycle of development.
I have written about the Invisible Child in a forthcoming book. Suffice it to say in the current context that it is a higher creation that is the product of a couple sitting together regularly over an appreciable length of time in Silent Tantra. The process that occurs effortlessly in such sitting eventually produces a being that has a life of its own. It manifests most clearly in the presence of the couple both between and beyond them. It directly parallels the ?Immortal Child? that can be created internally through Taoist Alchemical practice.
How does Silent Tantra benefit others
Unlike traditional tantric practice, Silent Tantra does not take place just for the benefit of the couple doing the practice. It is also useful for others.
When a couple is sitting (doing nothing together) a spiritual oasis is created. Others who are present at that time can receive a direct infusion of the higher power that flows naturally through the balanced condition of the couple. They (the others) do not have to do anything to receive this grace except relax and allow it to fall on them, like fresh spring rain. Over time if they continue to attended the sittings the others become
like petals of a lotus that surround the couple in the center.
The Propagation of the Lotuses
The evolution of Silent Tantra is already complete as a spiritual and energetic entity.
But it does not yet exist as a growing spiritual organism to which individuals can relate on a larger scale.
That is the next stage.
The fundamental functioning unit in this process is the lotus containing the divine androgyny couple at the center and the members around them as the petals. Over time as the lotus functions as a portal of sacred energy, the petals mature.
When they ripen sufficiently, they fall away from the parent lotus and attract their own partner with whom they start a new lotus. Each lotus is independent of all the others but they are connected underground and are all fed from the same higher source
There are a number of unique aspects to the propagation of the lotuses:
1. Each lotus is complete in itself. One lotus does not exert control on any of the others. If the
Process begins to decay in any given lotus, the maturation of the petals will stop. In that sense there is a built in organic control to the evolution of its development.
2.. All lotuses are connected underground much like aspen trees. They effect one another and reinforce each other, but they are individually free. This is a remarkable occurrence; something not found in the world today. They are matured by the same essence and higher connection.
3. Further, the original lotus continues to attract a higher level of being to interact with the center of the lotus so that an ascending process is created and a new level of propagation can occur. This too represents a potentially unlimited process of growth.
4. Finally, one of the unique characteristics of this process is that the further it goes, the more anonymous the original lotus becomes. This is the opposite of what usually occurs in the development organizations, where the founders receive the greatest attention and are mythologized over time.
As if I had never experienced it before; as if I have never been away from it.
Yet I know the grief, the pain, the anguish of not living in this part of me.
And here it is again, placed at my feet; floating in the sea of creation, I am back. I am here. The quality of it always amazes me. The surety of presence that I have never left Yet I screamed all summer because I was not in contact with this part of myself.
What are these essences I can see so purely in this light, so sure of in this
moment and so devoid of in waking day? I know and do not know. This is transmission, direct and pure. The soul recognizes beyond language the originating source and the mind wanders in its halls seeking meaning for its neuronal connections. And the body uses what it knows.
It is the same each time. The central core is opened and the static begins to get flushed. First in the mid section, always for me in the form of shaking from the pelvis upward. When it gets to my head I feel it trying to adjust the shoulder girdle to open the tension pattern in the muscles so the brain stem can spread like a flower. The vibration is shaking the left side of my cerebrum. Fast. My ears are ringing deep with the background radiation of creation. My head lolls to one side, stretching nerve receptors and facial patterns. I do not fight the moment toward release and articulation. I watch and listen, hoping for release.
Then the movement of all this activity passes. I only realize this when it shifts. Deep breath settling. Then activity of thinking passes. The threshold cleared.
I am aware I am sitting with John again; sitting in the living room with him even though I am so far away. How do I get back to being that open. My body seems to
disappear. I am energy with organizing forms. What is John experiencing? Am I a good partner? Is it good for him? This desire instantly makes me scan myself. I am defended? Where? Against what? Can I open more fully?
Then this too floats away, or rather passes and again I am left alone. What is
there to hold onto in the silence? Nothing Chris, let yourself do nothing. Be
present with John. I am aware that I am hiding. And yet I am here settled in
touching this part of experience again. My true self. Aware of how miserable I
become when I do not do this work. How hard it is for me to let go. To trust.
To just experience, to not manipulate. How much I have hide from the violence
of my own humanity, but denying my own capacity for it. I have hid, blaming culture and society and others for conditions which created my limitations. So I could pretend that I was all light and beauty. Hiding the shadow in the light. To expose my weakness, my cruelty, my incredible selfishness and the form of manipulation and domination it takes.
These things I have not been able to face. Oh let us rise together in the light of God’s
love, all the while trapped against the desire repressed by my own defenses.
How hard it is to push against this wall of resistance. Where is that moment
of innocence to throw open the gate so that I can fall into it in ignorance?
To be open? I breath in knowing I can not force it. I know I must fall into the consistency of it if I am to get beyond these walls. I must confront the predator of my own psyche.
But then again these are all words mingled with the experience of the time
that has transpired since we last saw each other, when those faces revealed
themselves to you. The suffering of my karmic lineage. The story of my
humanity. How can I hold the darkness and my smallness, my cruelty? It hurts
to see it. Sit to get beyond it. I am here.
I am writing the morning after the session so my writing is more objective than
within the subjective tone of the sitting itself. I was very altered by sitting last
night so much so it was as if I was stoned when we stopped. The experience itself was very different even though it was familiar. Visually it was as if I were on an acid trip. Distorted images kept spinning, blending, spilling into each other. I watched and
paid attention fascinated yet not attached. The images were violently graphic. The sense was bloody. People without faces or skin. Pushing, grinding, pulling at each other, destroying each other, stealing into each other. My third chakra felt tight and aching the whole time as if I were holding my breath. I could not release the tightness in the area. It was uncomfortable. I could feel how this tightens my whole pelvic diaphragm and all the viscera including the abdominal aorta and its connecting ligaments. All I could do was sit in stillness and watch the movie playing itself out. The vividness of it was unusual and fascinating.
After a while I became more aware that we were sitting together. I kept
focusing on the feeling of the phone in my hands, the ticking of the clock, the
humm of the fish tank motors, and the distant soft humm of the high pitched
vibration sound that comes when we are sitting.
After a while I opened my eyes and the room was far away, out of focus. I blinked and closed my eyes again. This morning I sense that the barrier between me and my interior world is crumbling. My subconscious and the potency of the images there streams into
the light, like dreaming awake. Maybe I will have more access to my creativity,
The images of humans ripping into humans, stealing their power, their force, their energy is ripe. I mean it makes sense to me in my dark confused state. The colors were red and black. But I saw other people as well. Like I knew them in real life. I could hear them but not bring into this state what they said. Like a dream. I could see myself seeing these people and recognizing them and wondering at the same time who they were and how could I understand them when I was not really hearing them. All this is extraordinary. But very intangible. Frighten even.
Maybe these beings talk through me all the time. Who are they? I mean I could feel the stream of them like a constant conversation through me. Why are these people talking to me? Why did they seem so familiar? But yet at the same time not me in me. The thought that something or things can worm through me/us like this disturbs me. How can we have freedom or surety? How can I claim personal responsibility for such phenomenon?
After about twenty minutes all this settled some and the shaking started.
Mostly in my head, neck and shoulders. To me this felt relieving because I did
not like the violence of the movie playing. So sitting reflects to me what is really going on in my interior landscape. How far does it go? How do you explore it and contain your experience without limiting it? Some amount of containment, of naming the experience seems essential to me for I have fallen in many times and spent long periods lost without a source of organizing centering, the experience uses me rather than I it. Maybe this is what writing is about; creating the literal observer. This could be useful at many levels. First there is the subjective, then there is my first response within the sitting, then watching this response then in writing about it. I name the first observer adding another level of subjective objectivity.
Now I am excited about sitting. Turning the tides. My every day activities suddenly seems to be a barrier in the way of this exploration.
Where Am I? I feel lost inside the sitting. Lost inside some sense of
disorientation. I am here but not fully finding my way to you even though I am
with you. I am aware of needing the space to sit. I can not find time when
others are around or when there is too much business in the way. I need
an expansiveness to approach contact.
I notice it takes me awhile to get there. I am waiting and waiting for myself
to begin. I think it must take between ten and twenty minutes to settle. There
is a neurosis today. I feel it. But in the quietness I notice where my packets
of subconscious energy are attached in my soft spoken interior landscape.
Always to childish energy in wasted places. Nothing morally enhancing for the progression of human consciousness, just petty animalistic limbic system responses.
This doesn’t really describe the experience though.
It was like I was disembodied, as if I had to find my way into myself first,
yet I couldn’t find myself in order to do this. Couldn’t place the missing
pieces. ?Where’s John??, I kept asking. There was power yet not like the last time
we sat. Was the interrupted day that important in the process of building some
sort of coherence?
It was as if I started in a threshold, and all I could do was wait for it to
pass. I had no power to effect change. I know I finally shifted when the twitching started. The clearing began. Short jabs this time. Again the tightness around my third chakra. I hate to say it but I got the image of a sphincter. It became so distracting, I finally focused my mind fully on it. Trying to make something shift, unbound, flow. I got whole body chills, like when the hair shafts stand up, like water flowing under the skin. I know that I am sitting and something is occurring. At one point I had the sensation of opening and spreading lateral, like a lotus blossom on a horizon at sunset. Then the brain stem stuff. Intense shaking left side of midline up through my neck and skull. I couldn’t track it really. Even now I don’t have clarity to report.
Then I became lost in this feeling of being lost. I kept trying to feel my way
to the familiarity of something. Looking for road signs. This went on for a
long time. Finally I heard the phone operator machine voice say, ?if you want to
make a call please hang up and try again?. So indeed I had lost contact, but
I was still altered. I turned the phone off and sat there for two or three minutes and then went on about my business.
MLS- Ecological Restoration Institute
Tonight had a sweetness and simplicity. How curious that each time is so
different. Tonight it was much easier to be quiet. I don’t have a lot to say.
At one point I began to hear a story that started, ?At the center of a star there is a
single hydrogen atom”. I wonder if this is true. The voice was not coming from
me that was telling the story.
Over all today there is a lightness. An ease which I haven’t felt in a while;
purity even. The shaking was less. Some sense of tightness in third
chakra, but not as noticeable or painful. No strong sensations of energy
shooting up. I saw an image of the inside of the house where you live. I felt closer to you. A desire to see you as we sit. Eye to eye. Less need to go anywhere. And a simple pride in making the call, not letting the day pass without calling. Gratitude to be sitting even so late.
At one point I felt layers of myself looking at myself. As if I were two
people perceiving each other at precisely the same moment. A surreal quality.
Like form looking at vision. This seemed critical, but I can not tell you why.
I felt comforted when I could hear your breathing. I felt peace
and my right hand twitched and gestured like it was performing some
mystical task or writing a novel in channeled form. A sign language of its
own. I am finding my way back home.
If I did not sit, I would forget each day that there is so much more to this
reality we live. I ricochet between the spiritual and material. How my life
becomes precious in the touching of this mystery. Each day my third chakra hurts less.
There are moments when even my breathing is too loud. It creates too much
noise. The longer we sit the quieter it becomes. When my breath pauses, I do
not seem to be lacking for air. I felt my heart open and soften, My sixth chakra pulsated.
Blinding flashes of light. Twice intense shaking of my head. It rings the
chord inside as if it is a clangor for a bell.
Rolling on the waves of the sea. Multiple currents interacting. The boundary between my skin and the rest of reality disappeared. Thinking, then stillness, then threshold, then shaking, the pause, then stillness, more thinking. Oh and what was it; more poetry came to me…I can not remember now.
?I floated in the green of late summer in the garden at the lake of my childhood memories.?
Coming down the hill at Big Indian from Rudi’s shrine. The stairs leading to the loft in Shasta. The drafting design of the dragon for Shastina. John sitting with the scroll deities behind him. His legs disappeared in a spiraling helix. More body sensations. Twitches, shooting sparks, shaking.
Then there are these moments when all this too falls away and something else
is happening. I think symbolically. I see the experience in terms precise but
unknowable to this mind speaking. It watches the passing of a wave that gives
rise to pictures. I must be more grateful. I began to feel the portal close before you spoke to me. I wondered if you had drifted into sleep. I wanted to call out to ask if you were still
there, but I knew you were. Again I hear this voice inside me asking, ?where am I
going? What is this for??
MLS- Ecological Restoration Institute
As we were sitting and I watched my neurotic mind dance between images of all the men in my life, I remembered the time my thoughts were so loud and distracting that in my mind I took a torch and chased them down and burned them like cock roaches. What is this part of me so obsessed with men and love?
Suddenly this distinct image occurred. Curiously it was the image of a tall slender man, The archetype of the Greek intellectual. He loved men. He was obsessed with men and making love to them. ?Leave me alone?, I told him. I did not question the phenomena of it even though I found him fascinating.
After this event, I went through a series of somatic experiences. There was a
deep pain in my stomach. I got an intense heat rush and loud voices saying, ?go away?.
I felt clearly the radiation of his anger and discontent. ?Please leave me alone. Don?t come near uninvited. Do not disturb me. Leave me alone?.
I saw the Grand Canyon as I had seen it a few hours before in the setting mist
of dusk. I tried to sit in stillness out there. Tears began to flow. There was
no separation between the experience of sitting now and most of my day. They were
blending into one movement of the psyche. I began to panic that I would not be able to remember it all to write about it when we finished. I am so tired.
As we sat I got a bunch of short sharp jabs that made me unconsciously gasp
and whine a little, my breath catching in my throat. Then one rushing movement
My head began to vibrate quickly. The pain of where my head got smashed when I had my accident rose sharply and then tears fell. My body mourning for itself. I hurt my head. I bashed my own head in. The grief and pain. I watched my breathing letting my
ribs settle and my spine extend like the physical therapist is teaching me to do. I
felt myself rise internally. And I watched the peculiar twisting f my own
internal sense of embodiment. My vision twisting inside my head.
I found myself drifting back to awareness of sitting. Where was the silence?
Where was John? I can’t remember more?..-C
This concluded the series of sitting.
Dr. John Mann has an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from the College of the City of New York
and a PH.D. from Columbia University in Social Psychology. For 20 years he was a Full Professor and Chairman of the Department Of Sociology At the State University of New York at Geneseo.
He has been a spiritual teacher for the last 33 years. He has written 14 books including:
Changing Human Behavior (Scribners)
Frontiers Of Psychology (Macmillan)
Ways Of Growth (Spectrum)
Encounter: A Weekend With Intimate Strangers (Psychology Today Book Club)
Students Of The Light (Grossman)
Learning To Be (Free Press)
Body Of Light (Tuttle)
Rudi: 14 Years With My Teacher (Rudra Press)
Divine Androgyny (Portal Press)