The tantra of tantrums


A tantrum is an emotional outburst, usually associated with children or those in emotional distress, that is typically characterized by stubbornness, crying, screaming, yelling, shrieking, defiance, angry ranting, a resistance to attempts at pacification and, in some cases, violence. Physical control may be lost, the person may be unable to remain still, and even if the “goal” of the person is met he or she may not be calmed. A tantrum may be expressed in a tirade: a protracted, angry, or violent speech (Wikipedia)

Although most people are drawn into spiritual beliefs and practices, they have a natural urge to fulfill their desires. With no way to reconcile these two impulses, they fall prey to guilt and self-condemnation or become hypocritical. The tantrik approach to life avoids this pitfall. Tantra itself means “to weave, to expand, and to spread”, and according to tantrik masters, the fabric of life can provide true and ever-lasting fulfillment only when all the threads are woven according to the pattern designated by nature. When we are born, life naturally forms itself around that pattern. But as we grow, our ignorance, desire, attachment, fear, and false images of others and ourselves tangle and tear the threads, disfiguring the fabric. Classical Tantr(ik) tradition uses two main approaches to the realization of (enlightenment): The first one is simply a gradual effort to release oneself from habitual or addictive behaviors. It is a preparation for the other, subtler system of practices, called yoga. (Tantrik Master Shri Aghorinath Ji)


When I my see 2-year old son starting to lose his grip on reality as he slides into the depths of an all-consuming meltdown, I would give anything to be able to talk him out of it, to say a magic word that would bring his little toddler world into harmony and his almighty emotions into balance. It may surprise you that it's not so much to save myself as to save him from himself. Although I admit I would rather not have to hold him like a rugby ball and pretend nothing is happening when he has a writhing fit because he wants nothing more than to push the button on the bus repeatedly and he can't, I know he's hurting more than I am. And it hurts me that he's in such despair over something that is both trivial and out of his control, though he has no comprehension of this of course. It's hard for a mom to watch the little person she's spent the last few years nurturing and protecting from the world so distressed when he realises he is not in control of everything around him. Of course he has to learn this lesson, but have any of us really learnt it?

That going kicking and screaming and fighting against the world when things don't go our way is not going to help us? Rather it prolongs and multiplies our pain and distress while we get the same result in the end. Are we really any wiser than a toddler sometimes?

I know I'm not. I've spent a fair chunk of the last few months fighting against my circumstances. I may not have thrashed around on the floor toddler-tantrum style but if my inner world showed on the outside I'd definitely be there. I've travelled from anger to frustration to despair and self-pity on my emotional rollercoaster…and really all because things didn't work out the way I wanted them to. I'm not saying feeling deep loss at having to leave family when a plan to be closer to family failed is wrong. Or that an ego-bruising sustained in going from teaching the most popular yoga classes in town to being the new kid on the block who has to build up your reputation from scratch in a very competitive place is not completely human. Or that feeling sorry for yourself in the middle of the English winter is unheard of. But the conflict and suffering caused by being consumed with these emotions is avoidable.

Should I really open my eyes and see my world for what it is right now, I would see that all is well despite my persistent longing for something that is not. If I could simply let go of the need to attain the object of my desire and calm down enough to take a few deep breaths between sobs I would feel the loving arms embracing me and know that they have been there all along.


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