Tuesday, December 20, 2011

When Customers Ask, “What is Tantra?”

Dear Booksellers,

Many consumers see their community bookstore as a source of wisdom on a wide variety of metaphysical topics. Talking to a real, breathing person—an experienced, friendly, and knowledgeable bookseller—about these matters gives added value to the traditional shopping experience.   

Do customers come to you with questions about a particular subject? Maybe they only have a vague idea of what they are seeking and need to know more about a topic before taking the plunge.

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, you may notice more people interested in Tantra. We’ve invited Donald Michael Kraig to explain this ancient spiritual path and its relation to Tantric sex, so you’ll be prepared for any questions that come your way.

What is Tantra?
By Donald Michael Kraig

Sooner or later, any bookstore that focuses on spirituality is going to get questions about Tantra. Is it just weird sex stuff? Is it all in the Kama Sutra?

Because Tantra is thousands of years old, different versions have developed and each may have their own focus. In this article I’ll try to give an overview that can help you understand what Tantra is and why it’s a valuable spiritual path.

There is no universally accepted meaning of the word “Tantra.” A popular explanation is that it is a compound of two Sanskrit words, tan and tra, that translate as “warp” and “woof,” the directions of yarn in a loom. So Tantra could be seen to mean the loom of all reality.

This means Tantra covers everything—all the physical and spiritual sciences. What Tantra uniquely does is explore all of these things in a unified way from the point of view of the individual. “How does this apply to me?” is the question answered by Tantra.

The result is that the spiritual and the physical are united in Tantra. Virtually all of the spiritual and physical concepts that are thought to come from India—chakras, kundalini, karma, spiritual bodies, prana, etc.—originated in Tantra.

The word yoga means “union,” implying a union with the Divine. (What most people call yoga—the moving of the body into different positions—is just one form of yoga.) Tantra Yoga is about the union of the individual with the Divine through understanding and working with the combined non-physical and physical worlds.

During the earliest period of our lives we have to learn to exist in the physical world, a necessity for survival that affects our bodies, minds and spirits. To learn Tantra you first unlearn almost everything and relearn a new way of thinking about ourselves and the world, a way free of artificial limitations we placed upon ourselves as we learned to survive.

This new way begins by understanding that everything is made of energy. This ancient Tantric concept is now a basis of modern science. Learning to understand and work with that energy results in learning about our physical and spiritual bodies, different forms of energy, the chakras, and how that energy interacts with the physical world.

Tantric Sexuality
One of the ways to work with this energy is through sexual activity. Certain sexual practices result in the movement of spiritual energy. But it takes more than just having sex to become enlightened! Tantric sexuality involves unlearning common sexual practices and learning new ones based on:

•    A deep understanding of the physical body
•    Intention
•    Visualization and
•    Spiritual awareness of the energy triggered by sex

There is an archetypal story of a couple immediately after sex. She wants to talk and cuddle while he rolls over and falls asleep. He’s expended energy and she’s absorbed it. With the techniques of Tantric sex anyone can learn to harness that energy and use it to achieve goals. Traditionally, the primary goal is to direct this energy through the non-physical body resulting in yoga—unity with the Divine—enlightenment.

These practices started to become popular in the West in the 1960s and 1970s. Some of the books on Tantric sex—more accurately called Neo-Tantra—are written by students of Baghwan Sri Rajneesh (AKA Osho).

Part of Tantric sex involves extended periods of ecstatic sexual activity. It’s possible to separate this from the more spiritual aspects of Tantra, and that has attracted the attention of many pleasure seekers.

War of the Tantrics?
You should be aware that some followers of Neo-Tantra don’t like those who focus on traditional Tantra. Likewise, some Traditional Tantrics don’t like the sexual focus of the Neo-Tantrics. Being aware of the interests of your customers can help you make recommendations that will fit their specific needs. Having the attitude that both Traditional and Neo-Tantra have value, and we can learn from both paths, may be the ideal approach.


Suggestions for a Valentine’s Day display:

The Essence of Tantric Sexuality
Mark A. Michaels, Patricia Johnson

Tantra for Erotic Empowerment
:The Key to Enriching Your Sexual Life
Mark A. Michaels, Patricia Johnson

Sex and Transcendence: Enhance Your Relationships Through Meditations, Chakra & Energy Work

Keith Sherwood

Love and Intuition: A Psychic’s Guide to Creating Lasting Love
Sherrie Dillard

Sex Magic for Beginners: The Easy & Fun Way to Tap into the Law of Attraction
Skye Alexander


Donald Michael Kraig is the author of Modern Magick and Modern Sex Magick. He writes The Magical Universe blog and teaches courses in the Southern California area on such topics as Kabbalah, tarot, magic, tantra, and psychic development. He has been a member of many spiritual and magical groups and is an initiated Tantric.

Donald Michael Kraig on His Favorite Bookstore:
“I literally grew up at the Bodhi Tree in West Hollywood. They have in-depth sections on every metaphysical topic. Here’s hoping new owners will make it even greater!”


Do you have any special requests for a blog post? Want to hear from a specific author on a particular topic? Please let us know!

Banishing the Post-Holiday Blues

Hi Booksellers,

I’ll just go ahead and say it: I am not a winter person. I don’t ski, skate, or sled. I don’t cheer for snow (because I know I’ll be seeing it for months). And I have yet to become friendly with Minnesota’s subzero temps. In short, I’m a winter Grinch. And I suspect I’m not alone.

How do I deal with it? I’d love to tell you that I practice yoga regularly. The truth is I rely on long, hot baths, books, and ice cream to get me through to April. And commiserating with friends helps, too!

If January and February are your least favorite months, check out this great article about beating back the winter doldrums. Kerri Connor, author of Spells for Tough Times, offers simple, magical ways to lift your mood, maintain cheer long after the holidays have ended, and spread the sunshine to your coworkers and customers.

Banishing the Post-Holiday Blues
By Kerri Connor

With the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping over, it’s the time of year when sales slow down and returns increase. For those working in retail, it may mean spending more time with your coworkers, rearranging displays, pulling stock to return for credit, and reorganizing.

After the holidays, you may notice that people are more easily depressed, distracted and disgruntled. Everyone has bills to deal with and perhaps other after holiday stressors, as well. It’s no longer the “happiest time of the year.”

The people you work with are going through the same thing, but we all often forget we aren’t the only one in the boat. You can help yourself (and by extension) your coworkers, through this bump in the road with a couple of simple magical workings.

Uplift Your Spirit
You can easily uplift your spirit and the spirits of those around you simply by adding certain scents to your everyday life. Don’t worry about running out and buying some expensive new perfumes. All you need is a couple of drops of essential oil, distilled water, and some kind of a spray bottle. (You can use an empty hair spray bottle if you have one; just rinse both it and the pump really well first.) Add the distilled water to the bottle along with about 5-10 drops of any of the following essential oils. (If you don’t have any of these oils, ask around! Maybe one of your friends does.) Feel free to combine oils to create a whole new scent:
  • bergamot for peace and happiness
  • lavender for peace and happiness
  • basil to promote sympathy, happiness and peace
  • neroli for happiness
  • ylang-ylang for peace
Each day as you are getting dressed for work, spray some of the mixture through your hair and on your skin. As you do so, say:   
These elements I combined
to do magic indeed
Fill me with peace and happiness
and negativity will have no grasp on me.
Allow this scent to work in the minds of all who inhale their beauty.
Let the scent work its power on you. Let it calm you, soothe, you, bring you peace and happiness. Let your positive attitude be an example for everyone else you work with. Good attitudes are just as contagious as poor attitudes. Let your attitude infect the people around you.

Bake Contentment
The sense of smell is strongly tied to emotions and feelings. When combined with the sense of taste, the effect can be overpowering. These cookies encourage peace, happiness and calmness through both their scent and their delicious sweet taste. Allow the lavender to do its work and calm and soothe the emotions of your coworkers.  Not to mention, people love surprises.

Lavender Cookies 
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 tablespoons finely chopped lavender flowers
1½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Lavender crystallized sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream butter and sugar, beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the dry ingredients until well blended. As you mix the ingredients together, infuse the dough with positive energies. Project your good wishes for your coworkers into the dough. Drop by a teaspoon onto an ungreased baking sheet. Sprinkle each cookie with the lavender crystallized sugar. Bake 8-10 minutes.
Show up to work with a platter of these cookies to help bring some camaraderie to the break room that will overflow onto the sales floor.

Accentuate the Positive
You can use affirmations to help boost your own contentment, which serves as an example for others. Or perhaps encourage the inclusion of simple affirmations in morning meetings so everyone can start the day on the right foot.

Some affirmations to try include:
  • I am at my best. My work is at its best.
  • Together our team succeeds.
  • I am at peace. I am content. I am happy to help others.
  • I keep my relationships at work positive and trusting.
  • When times are tough, we pull together to help one another.

These affirmations can be used either by yourself or in groups. The more coworkers you can get to work with them, the better, but don’t try to force them on anyone. Let anyone who wants to participate do so, soon no one will want to be left out.

When you combine good intentions with a touch of magic, you can help to turn even the most unpleasant of work places into a goal oriented team that works together for the betterment of the business, and each other.

Spells for Tough Times
Available February 2012
Kerri Connor (Chicagoland, IL) is the author of Spells for Tough Times (February 2012). She is the High Priestess of The Gathering Grove, and has been practicing her craft for twenty-five years. She is the author of three other books of magic, and her writing has appeared in The Blessed Bee, Sage Woman, PanGaia, and New Witch. She runs The Pagan Review, a website that provides reviews of Pagan products. She also recently started Nurturing Necessities, a non-profit charitable organization.

Kerri Connor on Her Favorite Bookstore:
Kerri Connor, a former Border’s addict, now frequents Howl at the Moon in Richmond, Illinois.


Anyone else have ideas for beating back the winter blues? Please share!