Updated: Jan 17, 2022
In the Tantric tradition I practice, one of the key principles is that everything is an experiment.
This speaks to the idea that, whatever you do, do it with consciousness so that through the doing of it you learn something. It's a research process. When you do this, your life becomes a kind of living laboratory. Your days become a constant process of discovery and exploration.
In order to move into this learning mode, we need to leave behind the world of judgments and enter the world of evaluation. For an experiment to be effective, we also need to let go of our assumptions about what is going to happen. We’re not trying to make something happen. We’re trying something out for the fun of seeing what will emerge. We might be surprised!
I love the idea that everything is an experiment because it gets us out of the idea that there is a right way of doing things. There are more pleasurable experiments and less pleasurable experiments, but there are no bad experiments. You can’t fail at an experiment unless you don’t gather the data, unless you don’t learn from it.
I’ve done experiments that were hugely pleasurable and, occasionally, experiments that were decidedly not. Channeling the energy of Mae West for an evening was pleasurable. Turning the task of doing my budget into a sexy BDSM scene with my partner wasn’t. But I was still proud of myself for trying it. And it gave me a chance to reflect on how I might create a new, successful experiment to combine a task I dread with some naughty pleasure.
You may find that experimentation plumps you up, gives you a layer of softness around yourself. You make a mistake and you clean it up and move on. When you notice you’ve fallen into a hole, you create an experiment to get out of it. You don’t stay in the hole, mad at yourself because you fell in a hole. Or at least you do that for a shorter time. Along the way, you’ll discover more and more of what brings you pleasure and become a ninja at tweaking an experiment until you get to the place you long to be. In the process, you’ll be on a path of ever-deepening learning and discovery.
The key is always to reflect a little after your experiment: What was that like? What did it stir up? How did you feel? Did it delight you? Is there something you would do differently next time? Did that experiment stir up an idea for a new experiment? What did you learn? How can you apply what you learned to another experiment or to your life in general?
Most of us experiment unconsciously. We try new things. The difference between a full on experiment and an experience is whether we learn from it or not. And then, whether we apply that learning.
When we start to experiment more consciously, we begin to decide what experiment we’re going to run, and something shifts. For one thing, it’s a lot more fun. And our lives begin to unfold in more creative ways. As my partner, Erik, likes to say, “Doing the same thing over and over is an experiment too. But don’t expect different results.”
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Photo: Library of Congress on Unsplash