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Decolonizing Our Spiritual Practices: Reflecting on White Culture's Impact on Indigenous Spirituality

What are the implications of an American white woman certified to teach Tantra? Any western practitioner who is truly reflective will confront this question at some point in his or her practice. What does it look like to decolonize our spiritual practices?

AI painting of hands holding the earth

Most of the world has a painful history around the realities and consequences of hundreds of years of colonial rule and abuse. Whether it was in India, America, Australia, South America, or even Europe- indigenous people were violently separated from their ancestral beliefs and spiritual practices. They were viciously punished for retaining their own languages or rejecting Christian teachings. Sacred religious practices and cultural histories were deemed mythologies, while Christian stories were deemed true. Entire groups still suffer the aching loss of their roots, as their ancestor’s bones sit in Western museums as tokens of a bygone era.

Globally, indigenous populations are in a struggle to overcome generational trauma and recover their history through relearning lost languages and reclaiming revered artifacts. At the same time, much of the western world has opened their eyes to the inherent hypocrisy in Christian colonialism.

As many lose faith in Western religion, they are turning to idealizing and uplifting the very indigenous cultures that their ancestors attempted to destroy. Not only that, most of these practices get watered down to highlight what is most accessible to the dominant white culture.

Tantra is a perfect example of this. There are often tense conversations in America when one person claims to be teaching “real” Tantra.

One person might say, “I studied in India, so my practice is real Tantra.”

Another might claim, “I have a degree from a university on world religion. I know the real Tantra.”

And yet another may say, “There is no real Tantra. It’s all Tantra.”

The truth is that the real Tantra remains closely guarded in temples by its ancestral stewards, none of whom are white, or American, or European. That is a reality that all Western Tantra practitioners need to consider.

For the entirety of my professional practice, I have considered and reconsidered whether it is right for me to use the word Tantra. I cycle through all the pros and cons, but have repeatedly landed where I am. I use the word because it is how people find me. I use the word because it is the closest truth and lineage to the work I practice. I use the word so I can open up discussions like these.

Do I teach real Tantra? Technically no. The practice I offer to you is an amalgamation of evidence based spiritual practices that most closely aligns with Tantra. The sacred text at the center of my practice is the Vigyan Bhairav Tantra, a somatic tool box for connecting with the Divine.

Maybe one day, I will discover a better way of framing my practice that doesn’t risk colonizing a culture that is not my own. For now, I can acknowledge the history and do my best to inform my clients too.

All of us from the West who explore world religions and spiritual practices must remember the painful history our ancestors created. Explore humbly, without ownership, and be mindful to let ancient perspectives shape your world instead of the other way around.

Ever forward on your journey to sacred fulfillment.


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