What is a taboo? Most people tend to think solely about sex in relation to taboos, but actually taboos can be any number of actions, behaviours or thoughts that are forbidden to a person or set of people.
In my study of tantra the past few years, and having been introduced to various lineages, I’ve noticed common threads. Modern practitioners of yoga are required to break taboos. The stringent schedules of a traditional yogi or tantrika are not compatible with modern life. We have to pick and choose what works for us in the context of a life that bridges the spiritual and the cosmopolitan.
The problem is not the integration of a practice but rather how we can accept what is in front of us, and to choose to love.
Within reason of course. There are within all subcultures extremists but I don’t refer to these. When I visited Rishikesh in 2017 I started reading about taboos, having heard a teacher speak about them earlier that year.
For me, it’s easier to understand the necessity of breaking taboos in terms of movement. Yoga, the physical modern practice of asana is composed of so many different postures that encourage and permit fluidity of movement in all ways. To restrict ourselves to one form or one pose is to limit ourselves to one range of movement. It’s why it’s proven popular as a recovery from other forms of exercise that simply require the body to move in one way, as it opens up new pathways.
Taboos limit us. Rules limit us. To say something is inherently wrong is to block ourselves.
So what taboo did I decide to break? Having gently moved into vegetarianism, I decided to break the taboo of meat-eating. I needed a partner to help me, so I enlisted my father and we had a very pleasant evening. I define myself as a neoyogini, so I didn’t create a ritual more than lighting a candle, but I allowed myself to really understand what it was I was doing, and be very present with the experience of eating meat again.
In the presence of my dad, a meat eater, it was a beautiful bonding experience. When you really commit to this lifestyle it’s easy to be perceived as having a spiritual ego, or to have one, so breaking a taboo like this is necessary to understand and connect to people around you.
We had kebabs – and I really enjoyed my chicken kebab. It was crispy, the salad was fresh and it was such a wonderful thing to share with my Dad. After he’d left however, the experience was over and I’m very happy to return to a veggie diet.
Everything is perfect
For me, the practice of breaking a taboo is a reminder that we live in an imperfect world. To try and limit ourselves to a perfectly clean container and environment forever is to invite our own destruction. It’s not about going to extremes. It’s about accepting and loving ourselves whatever we do, where we are and how we are. And accepting and loving others as well.
In my first teacher training I was told that tantra is the hardest path. Embodying acceptance, feeling and radiating love to all (myself included) is challenging. And a daily, and constant practice.
Thoughts? Comments? Let me know.
All content is copyright 2019 Jazmin Ali