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5 element/5 dakinis for insight without visualization?

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Has anyone worked with or thought about working with Ken McLeod’s five elements / 5 dakinis from Unfettered mind and the book Wake up to your life for insight practice without using the visualization exercises? I’m not a visual type of person and I’m not really good at imagining things. Still I think that the reaction patterns and qualities that Ken McLeod brings up are quite useful both for growing as a human being and for letting go of the fears that make us hold on to our separate selves.

I haven’t read the book yet, myself, but I will order it as soon as I can afford it. Right now I going through the recorded sessions here: http://unfetteredmind.org/five-elements-five-dakinis

I would be interested in trying exercises that might work better for someone who is more kinestetically inclined, like I think I am. In session 7 there are a few suggestions for alternative exercises (quote from the transcript):

”Another exercise I often do with people is have them tell a story—the same story—in each of the five elements. And different points will be emphasized.

Another exercise is to observe and act in one element one day, another element the next day, and so forth. And so you really get a sense of how it operates. Another possibility is to take a specific activity, one that you do everyday, and do it in each of the five elements. What are the differences.”

First of all, is this something that I can do at an early stage of my practice without messing it up? Second, would somebody be interested in trying this out too? Then maybe we could exchange experiences in this thread. Third, has any of you done this already? If so, would you like to share some experiences from it or maybe advice? I think I would be most interested in trying the last exercise first, since it is well-defined, kinestetically oriented and not that far from the drama exercises I used to do when I was younger.

RE: 5 element/5 dakinis for insight without visualization?
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1/13/19 10:42 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Here are some thoughts on 5 elements/5 dakinis based on my own experience with the practice.

In very general terms, speaking broadly and without getting into specific models, the awakening process tends to start with some initial flashes followed by a gradual cultivation and eventually for some people wakefulness becomes the default walking around day-to-day experience. At that point, the project becomes more about refinement and finding the increasingly subtle little seeds of reactivity that pull us out of that wakefulness. 5 elements/5 dakinis works really well for this. It probably has other uses (I have no idea where it fits into the traditional Tibetan curriculum), but IMO this is where it shines.

At the early stages of practice, especially pre-SE or at least prior to high EQ, reactivity isn't hard to find and so vipassana and working on equanimity makes a lot more sense to me. Also, a concern with practices involving reactive emotions is that we might inadvertently re-traumatize ourselves--they tend to bring up all our ugliest psychological stuff, which is great if you're ready for it but counterproductive if you aren't. So it makes sense to me to save this sort of thing for when our skill level is a bit higher and we have the equanimity to handle whatever arises. 5 elements/5 dakinis could be considered a sort of shadow work, which I've done a lot of and highly recommend, but years ago I had a pretty intensely bad experience with a similar practice that left me in rough shape for a couple of months. They are not without risk.

Just my own thoughts! Shargrol is an excellent resource for this one and he gave me some very helpful tips when I did it. I highly recommend Wake Up To Your Life as it is a treasure trove of good stuff.

RE: 5 element/5 dakinis for insight without visualization?
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1/13/19 12:16 PM as a reply to Andromeda.
Thank you for the advice! That makes sense. I was actually just thinking that at this point it seems to be an arduous way to uncover patterns that are already at the surface and I regretted posting this. It was probably the unmature air element in the subjective me that was trying to keep busy, hehe. I’ll read the book, though, for inspiration with regard to my Vipassana practice.

RE: 5 element/5 dakinis for insight without visualization?
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1/13/19 12:20 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Not that I'm mapping you, but sometimes desire for deliverance causes people to thrash around looking for new practices instead of just sitting with what is causing the thrashing around, which would be more effective. As a sort of avoidance mechanism. I don't know what's going on with you now, just seen this in myself and others.

RE: 5 element/5 dakinis for insight without visualization?
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1/13/19 12:27 PM as a reply to Andromeda.
You are probably right. I appreciate it. And I’m very sure that I have never been in high equanimity. I’m darknighting. Thanks! <3

RE: 5 element/5 dakinis for insight without visualization?
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1/14/19 5:11 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Also, I would say that the visualization aspect of 5 dakinis is not to be dispensed with (there are similar exercises in the book that don't have visualizations btw). You are basically developing a very intimate and "sadomasochistic" relationship (shargrol's words) with the dakinis which are a part of your own mind and the ritual creates a safe space for this to occur so as to make bleedthrough into daily life less likely. It makes for a sort of oreo cookie of fun/pleasurable/safe ritual sandwiched around horrible painful scary shadow stuff. Also, the energy raised by doing the visualization is necessary to really penetrate the patterns that arise. So if/when you decide to do the practice, I would not omit this part for both practical reasons and also... why would you leave the best part out? Dakini rituals are super cool!

When I did the practice, the locations chosen for the visualizations all came from around my childhood home and after a couple months of working with it I went there to visit family. While visiting, I went to each of the locations to do the practice and it was quite the amazing experience. I have grown very fond of my dakini friends emoticon

RE: 5 element/5 dakinis for insight without visualization?
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1/14/19 6:14 AM as a reply to Andromeda.
Thanks for sharing! I appreciate it.

Why leave it out? Because visualization is a closed door for me. I can’t do it. Maybe I would be able to if I were ready for the practice, though. Maybe I will some day. As for now, I can’t even imagine my loved ones standing in front of me. Visually, I can only vagely recall scenes that have already happened, very selectively. And if I do, that’s not in front of me now but somewhere else, if that makes any sense. I have very poor visualization skills. They have improved somewhat since I started meditating on a daily basis, though. Now I’m actually able to visualize the source for sounds that I hear with my eyes closed. I wasn’t before. I know that probably sounds unbelievable, but it’s true. They used to be just sounds. I knew what they ment, but I didn’t see anything. Not long ago, if I wanted to recall how my partners looked like (I have three partners), I had to either think of a photo or go through my other senses first. Somebody asked me ”But if you close your eyes and then raise your hand in front of your face, you do get some mental image of your hand, right?”, and I was so surprised. Why would I? I just got the physical sensations, nothing more. Now I can rather easily imagine how my hand probably looks in front of me, but that’s new. I had no idea that I should be able to do that, let alone that it happens automatically for most people. I had never thought of it. They asked if I could imagine the wall behind me, and I could imagine the sensations of touching it and the sounds it would make, even how it would smell, but I couldn’t even remember if there were any patterns on it and maybe some colour (it turned out to be plain white when I looked). And that was my bedroom wall. I have lived here for more than ten years.

RE: 5 element/5 dakinis for insight without visualization?
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1/14/19 8:23 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Hi Linda,
I haven't done the exercise yet, but if it's anything like the usual deity visualizations I'm familiar with I'd say this: You don't need to actually see or visualize anything. You do need to come up with some manner of creating the dakini infront of you so that you can connect with it. It can be "just knowing it's there" or smelling its presence or feeling it. Eyes/mental eyes are not necessary! But do make it a compelling ritual! emoticon

RE: 5 element/5 dakinis for insight without visualization?
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1/14/19 7:05 AM as a reply to Jehanne S Peacock.
Oh, okay. That’s good to know. That would probably suit me better.

I will probably not do this now, because I believe Andromeda is right. I need to just focus on the Vipassana and develop my basic skills and stay with what is difficult and investigate it. It’s still interesting to know more, though, because I hope to be able to increase my repertoir in future, and it’s always valuable to get input from others who are more experienced. Thanks!

RE: 5 element/5 dakinis for insight without visualization?
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1/14/19 8:17 AM as a reply to Andromeda.
When it comes to ugly psychological stuff, I really want to deal with it and I’m not particularly afraid of what may come up that has to do with the separate me. I have worked through lots of it, on the psychological level, although I still struggle with habits such as procrastination. I’m sure ther are still stuff to work with, and more layers of what I have already worked with, but that doesn’t scare me. I have already developed my own ”gestalts” for different dimensions or tensions that have affected me over the life course, or they have sort of organically appeared when I needed them. A couple of them came in dreams. The others are more like descriptions of something that I noticed was there. They all have different reaction patterns and drives and they all have healthy purposes when balanced. I have had them communicate with each other and work out some conflicts inbetween them. Since then, I have sort of evoked them for different purposes, and over the years I have found a balance. It’s not like they take over my body or something. I don’t have dissociative personality disorder. I just think this way of organizing different aspects of me is a useful way of dealing with the human condition with all its contradictions. It helps me to take into account different kinds of needs and do what needs to be done even though it may be hard, because I know that I need to balance these different aspects. Otherwise they pop up in ways that I didn’t plan for (as reaction patterns).

Those gestalts are not in any way divine, though, even though they have some resemblence with some mythological beings, and maybe that’s where I’m naive. I just thought it would be similar to what I have already done for psychological purposes. But I realized just now that I have been thinking ”How bad can it be - it’s just me”. But there is no me, and that probably also means that there is no ”just me” either. All humanity’s possibilities are there in every one of us, including the darkest ones. Knowing and accepting that intellectually is not really the same thing as experiencing it, I presume. And maybe involving divine elements releases forces that I haven’t thought of?

RE: 5 element/5 dakinis for insight without visualization?
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1/14/19 8:48 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
I worked a bit with 5 Elements / 5 Dakinis a bit right around the time I hit stream entry -- so High Eq of first path, Review, and some of the initial parts of second path.  I've discussed it a bit in my practice log, and these are some of my thoughts on using 5E/5D:
  • The qualitative/kinaesthetic aspect of the visualization is more important than the visual imagery.  So if you're visualizing the water dakini, it's important ot really start to believe that they're present.  And it's important to imagine what that kind of clarity of vision and knowing would look like.  And it's important to start to really imagine volumes of light coming down through your head and down your spine, etc. -- all still containing that quality of clarity.  The visual element will follow that and the consistency of it is probably related to your concentration skills.
  • The yidam practice where you imagine becoming the dakini and seeing your form from the outside can get really, really trippy.  I at times really started to feel like everything about me as a person was happening without any control.  While that's really good practice in a sense since it is technically true and is also how I'll probably experience stuff when I go further down the path, it was a little bit too much too fast. This is the biggest reason that I stopped using the practice.
  • The physical linking of the different awareness types to the different physical locations/chakras/element centers is genius and I can see how it would really be helpful for clearing up last bits of dualities.
  • I wish I'd taken my time to work through the elements one by one, starting from Earth and working on up only when I was really comfortable with that element.  My practice at that time was very focused on figuring out what was going on in the region of my head, and I might have had a smoother ride if I'd worked through lower body tensions first.
All in all it was a great practice and one I really liked.  It's on my list for practices to return to once I feel like I've done enough metta to be solidly out of fight/flight/freeze reactions.

RE: 5 element/5 dakinis for insight without visualization?
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1/14/19 9:48 AM as a reply to JP.
Thanks JP! That was really helpful.

Being able to take part of more experienced praticioners’ adventures through your practice logs and in your posts is such a treasure. I hope you know how much it means.

It’s obvious that I have a lot of work ahead of me. I don’t have that kind of concentration, and I can’t even imagine that kind of clarity. I certainly wish I could. I need to be patient and cultivate those skills gradually. I don’t want to think about how many times I’ll need to go through the dukkha nanas in order for that to happen, but even if I never reach stream entry, I do appreciate the practice. I’m apparently in a restless mode at the moment, but I won’t quit. I appreciate everything that gives me a clearer view of how much I don’t know yet and what kind of work I need to do. When I was younger it was difficult for me to handle such knowledge, but I have learned to cherish it, and that is something that I’m very grateful for. It makes life so much easier and much less of a battle or race. I want to get rid of more of those fetters.

JP, when you say ”lower body tensions”, what do you mean more precisely? Like the lower chakras? Conflicts having to do with more basic needs? Earth element conflicts? Or getting one’s body in shape first? Getting rid of stressrelated body tension?

RE: 5 element/5 dakinis for insight without visualization?
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1/14/19 12:25 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.

JP, when you say ”lower body tensions”, what do you mean more precisely? Like the lower chakras? Conflicts having to do with more basic needs? Earth element conflicts? Or getting one’s body in shape first? Getting rid of stressrelated body tension?


Basically just the patterns of misread muscle tension in the torso -- so psoas, diaphragm, stuff like that.  Probably roughly corresponding to the earth/water/fire centers in 5E/5D, but including other stuff in the general vicinity.

RE: 5 element/5 dakinis for insight without visualization?
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1/14/19 1:29 PM as a reply to JP.
OK, thanks!