Špela Gornik: If we don’t understand our passions, they can either rule over us or chain us
Foto: Peter Eggermann, Shutterstock
Špela Gornik is a Sinologist and sexual therapist whose work is based upon thorough knowledge of principles of daoist and tantric sexuality. We invited her to discuss the matters of femininity in contexts of both, Tantra as well as contemporary environment.
How do tantric principles define femininity? Is there a parallel with the emancipation movement and the feminism of the 20th century?
The heart of tantra lies in establishment of natural balance between all aspects of our lives. In tantra we speak about Shiva representing male principle therefore consciousness and Shakti representing female principle therefore universal energy. It is the union of Shiva and Shakti which represents the act of divine creation. Tantra is not a philosophical system, neither it is a type of religion; there is no God who would watch on us from above, but tantra does acknowledge undivided divine forces in the individuals as well as outside of them. Every god or goddess is here to help us feel and embody diverse aspects and energies. Tantra respects both female and male principles equally, consequently there is no reason for politically common gender fights.
The absence of monotheistic God literally saves us from traps of logocentric binary which stimulates drive for perfection. Instead of that, tantra encourages us to experience and embrace completeness already present in us. Tantra takes us to a journey to the roots of our identity, which is not socially determined; Many people can fall into a trap and act imprudently with this kind of energies. In tantra we can transcend divine energies immanently, by using them for grounding real spiritualism. If we truly want to thoroughly comprehend femininity in tantra, we need to be open to get rid of many of the myths deriving from our own cultural system(s).
Emancipation and feminism of the 20th century are (were) very much needed answer to the disbalance between male and female principles, where male principle overruled and suppressed female for centuries. But the problem of both movements is that they derive from wounded femininity. The consequences are obvious (but many still stubbornly turn a blind eye to this subject). Being wounded or being vulnerable are two totally different concepts.
Most of the male descendants from our region (Slovenia) were and still are being victims of incestuous relationships. Their mothers subconsciously incited these because of the lack of love from their partners. Their sons have taken on indecisive, weak personalities, which often end up locked into their narcissistic points of view and their eternal search of the mother figure and excitement. They tend to never grow up and they cultivate hatred towards women and anything with a scent of femininity in it. They learned this from their mothers, who never took a chance to accept themselves as complete beings, so they didn´t manage to plant a seed of respect for their femininity into their husbands and consequently sons. Many of these women even got ill from trying to accomplish all of the expectations deriving from their families, society and media which all share common but unrealistic demand for perfection.
I’m personally grateful for the emancipation and the feminism of the 20th century, but at the same time I´m realizing, that present time carries opportunity for individual revolution in terms of spiritual growth and embracing of more holistic view on the world in general. If we really want to see men treating women differently than they used to, then we should ask ourselves how does our relation to nature feel like. What is the influence of consumerism, as a western modern way of living, on the nature?
New age has doubtlessly delivered a lot of support programs for the self-realization of femininity. But should one be concerned about authentic transfering of practices with many millennia long traditions, as tantra? You learned mandarin and classical chinese before you started tantric therapeutic work.
New age and also science, both represent different branches of ‘brave new word’ and one in never too careful with their theories. Omnipotent science has this fixed idea, that it can systematically master outer and inner nature. Mankind is destroying and using nature and its gifts. Similar is happening to female principle. Harmonious relationship, inside and outside of us can be established exclusively with having control over our desires, which opposes basic premises of consumerism (along with science and New Age), the instigating of desires, because it is grounded on diametrical different opposing premises – on the moderation of desires. New age can be full of traps of spiritual materialism, because majority of people is not capable of integrating their ego in a healthy way (ego should act as a servant, not as an emperor of our being). We can see the presence of similar shadows in science as well as in New Age.
Personally I like to raise awareness of cultural and nowadays also consumerist and marketing patterns which are tacitly influencing our lives. Tantra and daoist sexual practices helped me to expand my consciousness. For example, I’m glad that I encountered books on eastern tantric and daoistic sexual practices when I was only 14. On one hand, the content introduced me to basic patterns of other cultures. On the other hand, their influence on my perception of sexuality was immense. Not only in terms of openness, but also in terms of innocence. And here we go again, I’m not speaking about Puritanism but about sacred sexuality, about conscious and responsible acts of co-creation. I owe thanks to those aforementioned new age books, for it was because of them that I never perceived sexuality as something sinful, dirty or forbidden and that I experienced and continue to experience it with great reverence and without any forging feelings of shame or guilt.
Getting to know other cultures beyond reading books and through studying them in their original languages encouraged me to put the masks of my indoctrinated western culture aside. Language is also a program and fluency in mandarin chinese helped me understand deeper levels of ideas and cultural discourses. People who grasp ideas just on the surface can never truly get to the core of them, we could say that they live according to their idealistic points of view, which gives them the chance to escape from responsibility of ‘here and now’. Concerning sexual desires this is the point where one can identify plenty of pitfalls.
Is today the fight for the freedom of the women maybe surpassed with the fight different sexes and sexual identification?
Kantian ethic is based on dualistic delimitation between ratio and emotions, which can only put people into constant fights. It is only through embodiment of our personal virtues, which we can accomplish with acceptance of our own natural principles, that we can influence the outside world for real. Any fight is lost in advance, because fighting deepens identification with the aggressor, and on the other side it creates dissonance with our primal nature that is based in warmth, interpersonal connections as well as our connections with natural cycles.
Most of the scientific theories (including psychoanalysis, which is in fact socialization theory of the patriarchate) made us ‘immune’ against naturalness. They tend to glorify exclusively male principles. Therefore their agenda is to teach masses how to control everyday life, sadly many times on the expanse of health and common sense. It’s our responsibility to unchain ourselves from this series of self-deceptions. It is a totalitarian self-criticism which is harming us the most, not the criticisms deriving from men surrounding us.
Individual was re-positioned as the center of senses and values in the times of Renaissance and the Enlightenment. The same time also corresponds with political agenda of deliberate erasure of true knowledge of the powers of clitoris from the consciousness of the masses.
We should look at the process of the identification from the perspective of the word formation. For example, thinkers and philosophers were always by definition men. Can you imagine that in fact we don’t have a female form of the word thinker? Personally I’m afraid of the people, who don’t have the ability for thinking and introspection. It’s not thinking that divides people, it´s ideologies and in Slovenia we have plenty of them. Western world praises the intellect too highly, which is done at the expense of the other, no less important, levels of consciousness. Biopotential of the humankind is not in the head, but in second chakra. Most of the people don’t realize that, and 88 % of this potential in them remains dormant. How can it be different considering the fact that people in general carry such resistance towards their own feelings and owning their sexuality. If we don’t understand our passions, they can either rule over us or chain us.
Anthropological theory indicate that homosexuality of some small percent of the people is typical for society in general. But on the other hand, we can observe the expansion of such practices in extreme circumstances (such as concentration camps and/or specific social conditions). How is homosexuality conceptualized in tantric perspective?
Reduction of the versatility to several formulas of different identities is the byproduct of the Western mind. In the context of tantra we don’t use the terms of homosexuality or heterosexuality in the sense of identification. People are sexual, and all the rest is useless pigeon-holing, which falls out of the tantric point of view. As a tantric therapist I help men as well as women and couples. I find it important for the therapists to be able to integrate both, male and female principles in themselves, and to work with that knowledge responsibly. If some of them unprofessionally project their sexual preferences on their work, that means that they have personal issues and potentially dangerous shadow side. That can cause a lot of damage on energetic levels and such manipulations shouldn’t be happening in the context of therapeutic work.
We mentioned specific social circumstances, if we concretize that would be for an example poverty or uniform one-gender world, like prisons. Would be possible to speak about modern crisis in the context of extreme conditions in the field of socializing and establishment of relationships?
Social changes are happening much faster as they did in the past. Crisis of the full time working schedule makes us productive, but we tend to easily forget about the meaning and importance of the sustainability. Callings for hedonism and incessant stimulation of the senses are alarming on the individual and make him blind for compassion and establishment of healthy boundaries.
Anyone who takes a couple of minutes to sign in to some social media page, can feel this crisis. I learnt an interesting lesson myself. Years ago I registered as a woman in search of sexual adventure, and most of the men who did contact me had presumed that I was married and had a desire to cheat on my partner. Not only this, the majority of men who contacted me were married and did exactly that. When they realized that I was single they´ve lost all of their interest. According to my way of communication they labeled me as a motherly type of a woman. Plenty of people unconsciously become asexual at the first sign of responsibility that a possible serious relationship could bring.
In Slovenia the majority of men tend to jump to conclusions incomparably faster as they tend to jump into any kind of a relationship that would require mutual responsibility. They are erotically stimulated from something forbidden, instead of something which stems from honesty and integrity.
Because of omnipresent financial crises (originally speaking for Slovenia) many people find it difficult to enter a dating scene nowadays. If there is no money for basic needs, how could there be extra money to sit and talk with a stranger over some coffee. This shouldn´t be a reason to give up effort, it can inspire us into becoming more creative.
So what would be the way of maintaining femininity in highly political and technocratic world?
Traditional morality has no chance for thriving, because it works against the tendencies of informational and global modernization. We can look at it from the perspective of losing ground under our feet, or we can take it as an opportunity to actually feel the solid ground for real. Decay of traditional morality is bringing us freedom to decide whether we want to continue depriving our femininity or we are ready to finally let ourselves shine in our authentic selves. We should move from idealistic fantasy into the reality which is here and now. We should raise awareness that as a society we are much more than just a group of physically divided human beings and allow ourselves to connect intimately with other human beings without manipulating each other. Our self-development and self-realization are connected to cultivation of the core of our inner nature.
We have been given possibility of making a choice whether we are going to continue to allow that we are being defined and redefined from male´s perspective. We should be able to stop denying our natural essence. We should allow ourselves to step fully into our inner center of power. And we should cease to allow or justify any form of emotional blackmailing or emotional draining. Our power lies in honesty and mutual connection; warmth instead of numbness, harmony instead of overwhelming sensations and hope instead of despair. We should put an ending to double lives, and dare to live honestly and fully present. And we should not pay attention to remarks without any firm background, which are only here to incite guilt or shame in us. It’s good to learn how to communicate assertively, by stating our feelings. Bring awareness to societies’ constructs and learn to listen to genuine reality which lies in the the laws of nature. We should turn our personal compass of responsibility on, which doesn´t imply taking other peoples’ responsibilities on our shoulders.
Iceland’s system, where women on all levels are equally embedded into social beat, could it be easily implemented into Slovenia?
We can definitely learn a lot from countries like Iceland. But we should be able to acknowledge collective traumas of our own female ancestors as well. Bring the skeletons out of the closet and sing over them. It is time to stop inflicting guilt on past events and try to think of a way how to build a brighter future instead. It is not going to be built on ideologies but on acceptance of our own femininity. Let us enable the connection between the intellect and intuition for real. Only by allowing ourselves to lovingly embrace our own femininity we will move away from the illusion of equality and step fully into a reality of equality.
Originally published in Slovene.