What is Tantra?

One of our storytellers Hannah Sophia is traveling for 6 months in Mexico, discovering spirituality and it’s hidden treasures. Hannah went to a 5-day workshop in the mountains of Oaxaca to discover a question we all have asked once in our life; What is Tantra?

After a long bus ride from Tulum (Quintana Roo, Mexico) to Puma Hidalgo (Oaxaca Mexico) I arrived in a Finca called San Gabriel. This amazing farm, high up in the mountains became the place where i found my heart again. In a group full of strangers i learned how to let go of guilt, shame and my own insecurities. If i could give you any advice? Follow a workshop with Arja, join a five day course and open yourself up! It’s worth it!

“To step into the world of Shaiva tantra, is to enter a world of magic and mystery. Mind expanding philosophy and arcane rights, pantheons of fierce goddesses embodied in mystic syllables, energy diagrams that map the many dimensions of reality, visualisations of power centres within the body, gestures that express the purest forms of consciousness, Nectarian experiences of the sheerest ecstasy, wielders of super natural power, and concepts that challenge the fundamental norms of ordinary society”  

~ Hareesh wallis 

As a sober Dutch girl I never really understood yoga and the path behind it. I tried some classes, went to courses in India and found my way, but never did i imagine that Tantra is a big part of this spiritual path that i am walking! Many people in the world, as myself, are looking for happiness and connection, and trying to find this happiness somewhere, through a job, a new house, a partner, or maybe the newest I-phone or a fancy car.. but they don’t really seem to find it there. People start to connect with an intuition, that there is more to life than getting up, work, socialise and sleep again.. people start to long for more depth in their life and they notice that what they are looking for externally, can be found inside themselves.  So did I. I felt a while ago there is more, and i am forever grateful that I went to the mountains of Oaxaca to find myself in this ancient wisdom. There is a Hindu story that has some relevance to this search for something deeper. 

“According to the story, once upon a time, all the humans were gods, but they had abused their divinity so much that brahman, the god of creation, decided to take it away from them and hide it at a place where it would never be found. Brahman called some of the other gods to help decide where to hide the divinity of the human being. Deep down in the earth, said one of the gods, to which brahman answered, that will not do because humans will learn how to dig into the earth and find it. Then hide it in the deepest ocean, said another. No said brahman again, because humans will learn how to dive into the ocean and find it. Then take it to the top of the highest mountain, said another. Again Brahman said No, because humans will learn how to climb the mountains and once again they will find their divinity. The gods then gave up and said, we don’t know because there is no place on earth where the humans will not find it…. Brahmman thought for a long time and then said…  this is what we will do, we will hide their divinity deep down in their heart, the center of their being, there they will never find it! And this is what the gods did…. Since then, the humans have been going up and down, high and low, searching for something, that is already within them.”

Arja explains to us: “In this story it becomes very clear; they are pointing to the heart.. Saying that our divinity is hidden in our heart! Tantra helps us exactly with this! To connect again, on a deeper level of our being”.

The Heart

If we look at the heart, the physical place can be a gateway to our being, there can happen an awakening from here.  – In English we also have a saying: follow your heart, or I know it by heart, or trust your heart.  So you see there is already an intuition that it is more than this physical organ. In many traditions they refer to the heart as the essence of divinity. In Sufism they say that the heart is the thrown of god. In Taoism the heart is seen as a royal organ. In Christianity we have sayings such as the heart is in the mind and the mind is in the heart. Where the heart is seen as a direct manifestation as god. Meister Eckhard also said the heart is born in god and god is born in the heart. The words of Jesus said the kingdom of god is in your heart, which somehow seems very acceptable, if we would say the kingdom of god is in your nose, or in your big toe, it somehow seems a bit weird. The tantric path is a very experimental path! I took a few little steps and i am very excited to take more.. It is an amazing way to see the reality i have for myself.  

Arja: “To delve into the world of tantra, is to look into some of your deeply held assumptions about reality itself. This means to how you live and relate to the world”.


If we look at the history of tantra, it is very complex. Tantra originated in India. Here, Sacred tantric text started to appear around the 6th century and there were many different tantras which also went by other names such as the agamas; all of them referring to a system of spiritual practice that embraces the world. Many of these tantric teachings were only available to those who had done a lot of spiritual work and personal work with themselves and were mature enough in order to receive particular teachings and tantric initiations.
– Many of these practices were done secretly, and many teachings were only given from master to disciple by the means of initiation. Within these tantric teachings that started to arise in different parts of Indian, there were the tantric teachings of Kashmiri Shaivism, seen as the supreme of the supreme, the ultimate understanding of tantra in a non dualistic view, and this understanding is what we will dive deeper into.

We started the workshop with some knowledge that was shared, but i immediately noticed, the moment we started with all the exercises how hard it was not to judge myself and feel in the way i am so used to feeling or not to be scared. We are so identified with our name, oud body, the way it looks our jobs and maybe you have never thought about the idea that you are more than just your body. That is because, according to the yogis, there are different levels of consciousness, on the level of consciousness where we are right now, we can’t perceive this all pervading reality, because our perception of the world is limited.

We can compare this for example with our sight, we can see from ultra red, to ultraviolet, because this is all we can see, it doesn’t mean that it are all the colours that exist, many certain animals can see colours that we cant, or the same is valid for sounds, we can only hear certain sounds because our senses or limited, yet we know that other beings can perceive sounds that we can’t. Dogs can smell us from a distance, we know that. And we can learn so much more from animals around us. This indicates that the perception that we have of the world and reality is limited, in many different ways.  

“I rather have my mind open by wonder, 

than closed by belief”

  After five days of diving into this world called tantra i would have never thought that tantra is about this? About the way i see the world, about love and sacredness, guilt and shame that i built on so hard. How come we have such a wrong idea about what tantra really is? 



Meaning of Tantra

The word ‘Tantra’ is translated as; Literally as “inner technique or technology” (definition from Sadhguru), or ‘book’ or ‘scripture’  (Hareesh Wallis) 

Tantra comes from the tantras sacred texts. At a different level ‘Tantra’ is also translated as ‘Web’ or as ‘woven together’. This is the meaning that describes the overall Tantric philosophy. According to Tantra, everything within this Universe is related to each other (has that same consciousness inside of it) and therefore cannot be separated. You can compare it with a cloth, this cloth is made up of many different strings, that are all interconnected to create this one cloth, the tantrics see the universe like this, made up of many parts and the whole universe is interconnected.

We can see this understanding of reality not only in tantra we see it in many major spiritual traditions, yet there is a big difference between tantra and other spiritual paths. On the tantric path, one of the most important aspects is to have is a tantric mentality.

“Arja; Tantra is giving us the tools how to connect with the depth of ourselves, while integrating everything life has to offer”.

We are the Body

We are educated that we are the body. When we look at society and the way many people live, life is a lot about our personality, acting and doing things from our ego, from our personal interest, following pleasurable experiences going from one pleasure to the next. Many of this is focust externally, outside ourselves, people looking for external happiness and fulfilment.  Yet we see that many people are unhappy, society is sick because so many people are suffering, there are so many traumas, dramas, problems and stress and disease. That Happiness everyone is looking for doesn’t seem to be found.   

What tantra teaches us is that we can connect with that happiness inside ourselves, that the real happiness comes from a true connection with the depth of your being, and with this, tantra is teaching us that we are not just the body, not just the personality.

Sexuality as a spiritual connection

In tantra,  sex is seen as an intimate sharing with your partner where you can open yourself up, with all your heart and vulnerability, bringing this feeling of sacredness to the sex, that something special is about to happen. A union between you and your partner physically, energetically emotionally and mentally.

I was surprised to find myself crying tears i didn’t think that where there at the end of the retreat. I was transformed! I thought Tantra was all about orgasmes and not having them as a man.. Never did i expect to change my complete view on life and the beauty of it by a Tantra workshop!! I felt amazing. I understood then and there that i still have a lot to work on. Right away i decided to go for another workshop Arja was giving in Mazunte about Tantric Rituals. I felt so inspired by her way of teaching, honest, real and with so much joy. My next partner is lucky, i have a whole new world to explore! Full of gratitude i left Puma Hidalgo and made my way to Mazunte, a hip and coastal beach town in Oaxaca. My journey into this different side of Mexico and myself had just started… 

If you can grow in love you will grow in awareness, you will grow in love”

~ Osho

With Love,

Hannah Sophia

*in collaboration with Arja Hendrikx 

Learn more? www.tantricteachings.com

Arja Hendrikx teaches mostly in Mexico & Thailand, but also in The Netherlands, UK, Peru and many other places. Do you feel inspired to invite her for a course in your hometown? Get in touch!



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