Swirling energy drawing attention away from meditation object

Matthew Henry Bulley, modified 4 Months ago.

Swirling energy drawing attention away from meditation object

Posts: 6 Join Date: 7/19/21 Recent Posts
Hi All
I would welcome some advice/perspective. I have been meditating fairly consistently for a few years. A mix of practice approaches, but mainly focusing on the breath and noting wandering of attention etc.
I have done one 6 day retreat, but otherwise it has just been consistent daily practice – 45 min-1hr sit every day.
I seemed to make good progress in my practice through the first year or so. About one year in I started having energy-related experiences: flashes of light followed by bliss waves etc. These then gradually subsided over more recent years, declining in intensity and the interval between such events also decreased.
What has become a more consistent reality is energy stuck in the head. I remember exactly when it started. During one session, I suddenly I got this odd feeling, like there was a light, moving cloth starting to stretch down my forehead, underneath the skin. This happened at about the time when the light flashes started to disappear and become a rarity.
This feeling was bizarre, but not unpleasant, and it was not accompanied by any fear etc. - merely curiosity and amazement!
This feeling has never really gone away since, but it has slowly expanded and evolved over time. I’ve come to perceive that it radiates out, like a force field from the third eye area, although as it has progressed the “core locus” of radiation seems to shift, occasionally now to the throat area and most recently sometimes extending into the chest area as well. The central point seems to move between these areas nowadays, but always seems like it has a central point (sometimes this is a very constricted “dot, other times a slightly larger but still definable and relatively compact location).  
Increasingly now, it feels like an energetic connection is forming between my throat, chest and third eye area – sensations in one location seems to influence sensations the other locations within the field.
Sometimes there is a pop and shift in the energy and it assumes a new “configuration”. Very rarely, the central point of the energy will “”fizz away” in sort of chain reaction/explosion type thing. On one occasion when this happened there was an explosion of light effect.
This feeling of stuck, swirling energy fields is nowadays with me at all times, even outside of meditation. It is not unpleasant in the main, although it does seem to intensify when I am tired, or stressed, and then it can be a little annoying, but nothing I can't live with. Fortunately, I only really notice it when I am alone and my mind is not occupied by any meaningful activity. It never gets in the way of work, or impedes important tasks.
The trouble is, I am concerned that I am becoming a bit obsessed by it within the meditative context. For example, if I am watching TV, not doing anything particularly engaging, or waiting for students to complete a test (I am a secondary school teacher) I can  become quite engrossed “playing with” this energy field. I can sort of push it around, “prod it” with my attention and my breath and this has become an activity I can get quite lost in!
Nowadays, when I meditate, this swirling energy tends to become rather dominant in my experience. It seems to be intimately connected with my breath. Frequently it can be hard to discern where the breath sensations end and where the energy field begins.
I am becoming mindful that my fascination with this phenomenon is drawing my attention away from other sensations which I should be paying attention to.
Sometimes I get so absorbed “surfing the field” that I lose awareness of other things. For example, I started using Insight Timer to make periodic alarms to counteract subtle dullness. At first the alarms would startle me but nowadays I often don’t even hear the alarms, so absorbed in the field can I become!
I’ve recently started to avoid the breath at the nostrils as a meditation object and switched instead to the feeling of my backside/legs contacting with the floor. This is because I feel I need to draw my attention away from the energy field. But my attention just wants to keep going back to the energy field. This is now more of a draw/distraction for me than discursive thought. I do find myself lost in thought from time to time, however it seems to me the main challenge now is not to get distracted by the energy field.
Anyway. I hope this all makes some sense and perhaps it is interesting. I am happy experimenting and my practice does continue to evolve. I’m not convinced I am completely stuck, or that there’s a problem. That said, I would welcome some perspectives from anybody with experience, particularly anybody who has gone beyond a similar experience, onwards to stream entry etc.​​​​​​​
A. Dietrich Ringle, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Swirling energy drawing attention away from meditation object

Posts: 882 Join Date: 12/4/11 Recent Posts
So do you think you're a dark night yogi? You sound well adjusted.
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Swirling energy drawing attention away from meditation object

Posts: 5981 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
Are you sure this is a problem? It sounds pretty much like one of the more intense phases of my practice, that is, the period leading up to stream entry, and I never saw it as a problem. I loved it, and I learned so much from it. It changed my life for the better. It shifted my entire being. Would it be possible to trust it? To embrace it? The process knows the way. 
Matthew Henry Bulley, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Swirling energy drawing attention away from meditation object

Posts: 6 Join Date: 7/19/21 Recent Posts
Thanks Dietrich - I do wonder if I am in some sort of Dark-Nightish territory, but it is hard for me to say for sure. I can’t really say that I am aware of having attained the insights of the pre- A&P stages, unless these have embedded at a subconscious level, and there’s nothing particularly fearful/miserable/disgusting about my current sits.  

Linda - your suggestion to just trust in the process rings with my own feelings about the best way forwards, thanks for your input. I guess my main question, really, is whether I should make an effort to focus my attention away from the energy field I describe, or to focus in on it, or perhaps to go for  more of a no effort/do nothing approach.

​​​​​​​PS I’ve never really got much traction with noting but then again, perhaps I’ve just been lazy.......
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Swirling energy drawing attention away from meditation object

Posts: 5981 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
It's third vipassana jhana. An exquisite guide to where your knots are, complete with hints as to how you might dissolve them. 
Matthew H B, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Swirling energy drawing attention away from meditation object

Posts: 6 Join Date: 7/19/21 Recent Posts
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö
It's third vipassana jhana. An exquisite guide to where your knots are, complete with hints as to how you might dissolve them. 

​​​​​​​Any tips on "taking the hints", Linda?
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Swirling energy drawing attention away from meditation object

Posts: 5981 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
Are you familiar with how to interpret your dreams? I'd say it's pretty similar. Like, if you find yourself using metaphors to describe it, check out the literal meaning, and vice versa. That's one aspect of it. Another one is how very clearly it shows you where your mind wants to go. That's not arbitrary. 
Matthew H B, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Swirling energy drawing attention away from meditation object

Posts: 6 Join Date: 7/19/21 Recent Posts
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö
Are you familiar with how to interpret your dreams? I'd say it's pretty similar. Like, if you find yourself using metaphors to describe it, check out the literal meaning, and vice versa. That's one aspect of it. Another one is how very clearly it shows you where your mind wants to go. That's not arbitrary. 
This sounds very interesting, although I’m not sure I get what you mean….
Are you suggesting that my experience while sitting is a metaphor for my wider lived experience (or perhaps it is the other way round?!) and that the clue for progress in one lies in the other (and perhaps vice-versa)?
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Swirling energy drawing attention away from meditation object

Posts: 5981 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
That's not what I had in mind, but the practice and daily life are indeed intertwined. 

I had lots of exeriences that felt like my sensory organs were literally forced to turn inside out, which is a very vivid metaphor for how to approach experience, which becomes clear later on the path.
A. Dietrich Ringle, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Swirling energy drawing attention away from meditation object

Posts: 882 Join Date: 12/4/11 Recent Posts
Matthew Henry Bulley
Hi All
I would welcome some advice/perspective. I have been meditating fairly consistently for a few years. A mix of practice approaches, but mainly focusing on the breath and noting wandering of attention etc.
I have done one 6 day retreat, but otherwise it has just been consistent daily practice – 45 min-1hr sit every day.
I seemed to make good progress in my practice through the first year or so. About one year in I started having energy-related experiences: flashes of light followed by bliss waves etc. These then gradually subsided over more recent years, declining in intensity and the interval between such events also decreased.
What has become a more consistent reality is energy stuck in the head. I remember exactly when it started. During one session, I suddenly I got this odd feeling, like there was a light, moving cloth starting to stretch down my forehead, underneath the skin. This happened at about the time when the light flashes started to disappear and become a rarity.
This feeling was bizarre, but not unpleasant, and it was not accompanied by any fear etc. - merely curiosity and amazement!
This feeling has never really gone away since, but it has slowly expanded and evolved over time. I’ve come to perceive that it radiates out, like a force field from the third eye area, although as it has progressed the “core locus” of radiation seems to shift, occasionally now to the throat area and most recently sometimes extending into the chest area as well. The central point seems to move between these areas nowadays, but always seems like it has a central point (sometimes this is a very constricted “dot, other times a slightly larger but still definable and relatively compact location).  
Increasingly now, it feels like an energetic connection is forming between my throat, chest and third eye area – sensations in one location seems to influence sensations the other locations within the field.
Sometimes there is a pop and shift in the energy and it assumes a new “configuration”. Very rarely, the central point of the energy will “”fizz away” in sort of chain reaction/explosion type thing. On one occasion when this happened there was an explosion of light effect.
This feeling of stuck, swirling energy fields is nowadays with me at all times, even outside of meditation. It is not unpleasant in the main, although it does seem to intensify when I am tired, or stressed, and then it can be a little annoying, but nothing I can't live with. Fortunately, I only really notice it when I am alone and my mind is not occupied by any meaningful activity. It never gets in the way of work, or impedes important tasks.
The trouble is, I am concerned that I am becoming a bit obsessed by it within the meditative context. For example, if I am watching TV, not doing anything particularly engaging, or waiting for students to complete a test (I am a secondary school teacher) I can  become quite engrossed “playing with” this energy field. I can sort of push it around, “prod it” with my attention and my breath and this has become an activity I can get quite lost in!
Nowadays, when I meditate, this swirling energy tends to become rather dominant in my experience. It seems to be intimately connected with my breath. Frequently it can be hard to discern where the breath sensations end and where the energy field begins.
I am becoming mindful that my fascination with this phenomenon is drawing my attention away from other sensations which I should be paying attention to.
Sometimes I get so absorbed “surfing the field” that I lose awareness of other things. For example, I started using Insight Timer to make periodic alarms to counteract subtle dullness. At first the alarms would startle me but nowadays I often don’t even hear the alarms, so absorbed in the field can I become!
I’ve recently started to avoid the breath at the nostrils as a meditation object and switched instead to the feeling of my backside/legs contacting with the floor. This is because I feel I need to draw my attention away from the energy field. But my attention just wants to keep going back to the energy field. This is now more of a draw/distraction for me than discursive thought. I do find myself lost in thought from time to time, however it seems to me the main challenge now is not to get distracted by the energy field.
Anyway. I hope this all makes some sense and perhaps it is interesting. I am happy experimenting and my practice does continue to evolve. I’m not convinced I am completely stuck, or that there’s a problem. That said, I would welcome some perspectives from anybody with experience, particularly anybody who has gone beyond a similar experience, onwards to stream entry etc.​​​​​​​
I hope you teach in a private school context because public schools are terrible places for someone in the dark night. I say this as a former substitute teacher.
Matthew H B, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Swirling energy drawing attention away from meditation object

Posts: 6 Join Date: 7/19/21 Recent Posts
No - I do teach at a "public" school (or a comprehensive, as we call them in the UK). I agree it is a very challenging environment at the emotional level and I do indeed, personally, find it very challenging.

Sometimes I wonder if it is the best possible training at the dharma level.....

On other days I suspect it is not even "right livelihood".......

There are few environments less stable or controllable than the secondary school classroom. Entropy writ large! A constant, never-ending game of spinning plates whilst standing on a moving wobble board.
That said, it does not really bleed into my sitting practice too much. ​​​​​​​
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Swirling energy drawing attention away from meditation object

Posts: 5981 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
Hey now, the dukkha nanas aren't always that bad. When manifesting as vipassana jhana they can be amazing. In my experience, the vibrational level is very different from the mundane emotional level. 
George S, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Swirling energy drawing attention away from meditation object

Posts: 2111 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Matthew H B
I can sort of push it around, “prod it” with my attention and my breath and this has become an activity I can get quite lost in!
Nowadays, when I meditate, this swirling energy tends to become rather dominant in my experience. It seems to be intimately connected with my breath. Frequently it can be hard to discern where the breath sensations end and where the energy field begins.
I am becoming mindful that my fascination with this phenomenon is drawing my attention away from other sensations which I should be paying attention to.
Sometimes I get so absorbed “surfing the field” that I lose awareness of other things. For example, I started using Insight Timer to make periodic alarms to counteract subtle dullness. At first the alarms would startle me but nowadays I often don’t even hear the alarms, so absorbed in the field can I become!
I’ve recently started to avoid the breath at the nostrils as a meditation object and switched instead to the feeling of my backside/legs contacting with the floor. This is because I feel I need to draw my attention away from the energy field. But my attention just wants to keep going back to the energy field. This is now more of a draw/distraction for me than discursive thought. I do find myself lost in thought from time to time, however it seems to me the main challenge now is not to get distracted by the energy field.

One thing you can play around with is noticing that you don't actually control your attention! If you look closely then you can notice that sensations are basically competing to create attention. There is no such thing as attention independent of individual sensations. What can happen when a particular set of sensations creates attention is that the thought arises 'I just moved my attention onto those sensations'. But notice that thought is just another set of sensations creating attention!

​​​​​​​When you realize that's the way things are, then you give up the illusory struggle to control your attention and sensations become "aware of themselves". If energy patterns are creating attention then no problem. When I look at it this way then I tend to find that energy flows more freely. Whereas if I either try to ignore it or force "my attention" onto it, then it creates tension and they tend to get stuck. There are often subtle patterns of resistance to energetic sensations (sometimes manifesting as forceful interest) which take time to relax.
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Swirling energy drawing attention away from meditation object

Posts: 5981 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
George S:

One thing you can play around with is noticing that you don't actually control your attention! If you look closely then you can notice that sensations are basically competing to create attention. There is no such thing as attention independent of individual sensations. What can happen when a particular set of sensations creates attention is that the thought arises 'I just moved my attention onto those sensations'. But notice that thought is just another set of sensations creating attention!

​​​​​​​When you realize that's the way things are, then you give up the illusory struggle to control your attention and sensations become "aware of themselves". If energy patterns are creating attention then no problem. When I look at it this way then I tend to find that energy flows more freely. Whereas if I either try to ignore it or force "my attention" onto it, then it creates tension and they tend to get stuck. There are often subtle patterns of resistance to energetic sensations (sometimes manifesting as forceful interest) which take time to relax.


That’s well put.
Matthew H B, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Swirling energy drawing attention away from meditation object

Posts: 6 Join Date: 7/19/21 Recent Posts
Thanks George
This makes sense. One of the things I have been working over the last year is giving up control of the breath. What’s really helped is to treat the idea of being in control of the breath, or of trying to drop control, as just another sensation/thought when it arises. So I explore the “feeling” of believing I am controlling my breath. I definitely get the sense that the whole energy field thing is connected to my sense of having some sort of will/control and that I need to drop this somehow.
A. Dietrich Ringle, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Swirling energy drawing attention away from meditation object

Posts: 882 Join Date: 12/4/11 Recent Posts
Matthew H B
Thanks George
This makes sense. One of the things I have been working over the last year is giving up control of the breath. What’s really helped is to treat the idea of being in control of the breath, or of trying to drop control, as just another sensation/thought when it arises. So I explore the “feeling” of believing I am controlling my breath. I definitely get the sense that the whole energy field thing is connected to my sense of having some sort of will/control and that I need to drop this somehow.


I think the main point is that the so-called "swirling energy" is not actually taking you away from your meditation object. You just haven't realized it yet.
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Swirling energy drawing attention away from meditation object

Posts: 5981 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
A. Dietrich Ringle
Matthew H B
Thanks George
This makes sense. One of the things I have been working over the last year is giving up control of the breath. What’s really helped is to treat the idea of being in control of the breath, or of trying to drop control, as just another sensation/thought when it arises. So I explore the “feeling” of believing I am controlling my breath. I definitely get the sense that the whole energy field thing is connected to my sense of having some sort of will/control and that I need to drop this somehow.


I think the main point is that the so-called "swirling energy" is not actually taking you away from your meditation object. You just haven't realized it yet.


Bull’s eye!
George S, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Swirling energy drawing attention away from meditation object

Posts: 2111 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Matthew H B
Thanks George
This makes sense. One of the things I have been working over the last year is giving up control of the breath. What’s really helped is to treat the idea of being in control of the breath, or of trying to drop control, as just another sensation/thought when it arises. So I explore the “feeling” of believing I am controlling my breath. I definitely get the sense that the whole energy field thing is connected to my sense of having some sort of will/control and that I need to drop this somehow.

Right, so same as you can see that trying to drop control of the breath is just another sensation/thought, you can apply the same insight to the need to drop control of the energy field! It's cultivating the ability to recognize that something which you think is happening (control) is not really happening, or at least it's not happening the way that you think it is ... and it's that way of thinking which causes a certain base level of dissatisfaction with your experience.

This kind of thing happens quite often in practice - you have some "technique" (energy work, nondual awareness, not-selfing etc.) which basically boils down to giving up control and letting experience be. It seems to work quite well under the right practice conditions, but there's this stubborn sense that if only I could fully drop control then my experience would be ok all the time. That perception of a residual need to drop control is actually a sneaky move by the ego to protect itself from the threat of the practice! It sees its territory being encroached and does a defensive countermove - ok, I'll give up (the illusion of) control of the breath, but I'll keep (the illusion of) control of the energy field (or last bits of duality or selfing or whatever), and the way I'll maintain (the illusion of) control of it is by producing thoughts that I need to drop control of it!

You might think that this would lead to an infinite regress, but it's really the same resistance pattern which is happening on an energetic level in the body somewhere. If you can feel into it and  locate those sensations of resistance and get familiar with them, then you start to recognize it's the same thing happening on a physical level which is producing these different thought patterns of 'I somehow need to do the impossible and drop control of X' (where X is something that is not actually controllable). You can also see that the thought patterns feed back into the physical resistance energy, which is what keeps the whole thing running. Once you get into the habit of noticing the physical sensations of resistance as they arise, then it naturally reduces the amount of energy flowing into the thoughts, which allows the resistance to subside.
   
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Swirling energy drawing attention away from meditation object

Posts: 5981 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
What George says is very true. I've got to say, though, that approaching it as a force that I had to surrender to, that took me through some seriously trippy experiences that I wouldn't want to have missed. I was basically being Dirk Gently, providing myself with lots of mysterious hints, and following them all the way deep into a rabbit hole. And I learned from it and got stream entry.

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