Opening the Energy Gates practice log

Bames Jond, modified 3 Months ago.

Opening the Energy Gates practice log

Posts: 16 Join Date: 5/25/15 Recent Posts
Dear Dhamma friends,

I have posted here a couple times before but feel like it is time to make a practice log and engage a bit more with the community. In short, I will be taking more than 6 months off of my profressional obligations to focus on meditation, beginning January 2022. Until then, I am hoping to do a few things:
  1. Sustain high-volume practice, hopefully around 30 hours per week with exceptions, allowances, and general relaxation within this goal.
  2. Open, clear, dissolve, and build my energy, with primary means being an hour per day of Opening the Energy Gates qigong, following Bruce Frantzis' book, online course, and perhaps meeting with one of his students
  3. Figure out where I should go on retreat next year and what method I should be practicing (this is complicated by COVID). Once I've figured that out I can spend my big daily practice volume practicing this technique.
My intention with this practice log is that I hope it will help hold me accountable, as well as provide a useful source of information if I ask about issue #3. Also, I really want to make these qigong methods more well-known in the pragmatic dharma community, because I have found them to be extremely promising and deeply complimentary to sitting meditation practices. That said, I am still a complete beginner so this log will be proof, one way or another, of their efficacy.

I'll put down some information about my practice background in future posts, then start with the logging.

With metta,
Bames
A. Dietrich Ringle, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Opening the Energy Gates practice log

Posts: 882 Join Date: 12/4/11 Recent Posts
Bames Jond
Dear Dhamma friends,

I have posted here a couple times before but feel like it is time to make a practice log and engage a bit more with the community. In short, I will be taking more than 6 months off of my profressional obligations to focus on meditation, beginning January 2022. Until then, I am hoping to do a few things:
  1. Sustain high-volume practice, hopefully around 30 hours per week with exceptions, allowances, and general relaxation within this goal.
  2. Open, clear, dissolve, and build my energy, with primary means being an hour per day of Opening the Energy Gates qigong, following Bruce Frantzis' book, online course, and perhaps meeting with one of his students
  3. Figure out where I should go on retreat next year and what method I should be practicing (this is complicated by COVID). Once I've figured that out I can spend my big daily practice volume practicing this technique.
My intention with this practice log is that I hope it will help hold me accountable, as well as provide a useful source of information if I ask about issue #3. Also, I really want to make these qigong methods more well-known in the pragmatic dharma community, because I have found them to be extremely promising and deeply complimentary to sitting meditation practices. That said, I am still a complete beginner so this log will be proof, one way or another, of their efficacy.

I'll put down some information about my practice background in future posts, then start with the logging.

With metta,
Bames

Be gentle with yourself. A lot of the practice centers I have heard of take into account your mental well being. It seems you have some good core practices so stick with them but don't worry if they don't go to plan or freak out if they work better than expected!
A. Dietrich Ringle, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Opening the Energy Gates practice log

Posts: 882 Join Date: 12/4/11 Recent Posts
Honestly I say this because it is better to start resolutions once you get​​​​​​​ to stream entry rather than when you first start out!
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Oatmilk, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Opening the Energy Gates practice log

Posts: 110 Join Date: 7/30/20 Recent Posts
To me this sounds like the way forward to burn yourself out as well as ending up miserable. 
1-2 hours/day is already more than enough to make sufficient "progress" - everything above that is probably unnecessary and will most liekely result in problems. Having some weekends here and there to do a mini retreat, fine. Going on a retreat here and there, fine but that should be about it. As you said, you are a beginner, no need to throw yourself out of the game. 
Meditation is already enough, having a Qi Gong practice is also great but mixing both of those in such an extrem way will only mess with your system. You'll most likely damage yourself following this practice regime long term. 
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This very moment, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Opening the Energy Gates practice log

Posts: 57 Join Date: 7/6/17 Recent Posts
Good luck!  I will be interested in your experiences as I started a zhan zhuang practice a few weeks ago.  Just 5 minutes in the AM and PM.  Very interesting stuff, looking to build it to 10 and 10 soon. 
Bames Jond, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Opening the Energy Gates practice log

Posts: 16 Join Date: 5/25/15 Recent Posts
Here is my practice background:
  • Practicing for 6 years
  • Total retreat time: about 170 days
  • Framework I know best: TMI
  • Longest retreat: over 50 days at Dharma Stronghold
  • Styles:
    • breath at the nose; years 1-3; 9, 6, and 50+ day retreats using this; eventually got to the point where I could consistently access exclusive attention after say 15-30 minutes and sustain for 10s of minutes with this object on retreat at Dharma Stronghold but felt that it was slow to develop and that my defilements were influencing the breath cycle to a greater extent because it was the object, thus creating a negative feedback loop and massive blockages plus heinous vibrations, primarily in my legs
    • Goenka; year 1; one 10 day retreat
    • noting; year 1; one 17 day retreat at Panditarama Lumbini; got past A&P
    • Nada sound; year 3; one 15 day retreat; got very deep very fast, including a moment of hard absorption into the nimitta (golden singing bowl) and generally stage 8 practice within a week of starting the retreat, then fell way back and couldn't find it anymore for the rest of the retreat
    • Blue kasina; years 4-5; 9, 4, and 15 day retreats using this; following instructions of a senior student of Culadasa I simply gazed at the whole of the disk with a steady intention to mostly ignore its impermanent aspects. Never closed my eyes, simply steadied attention until I could see it with my eyes closed in my mind's eye (never happened). This was a very beneficial practice because it showed me how to concentrate without controlling, as well as the light blue color I used seemed to deeply balance my mind and body to some extent, "permanently" giving me some yin to balance my yang nature. However, I found it quite difficult to transition to truly exclusive attention as well as ignore vipassana aspects of the experience. Basically I'd get to stage 6 and then it would become more like choiceless awareness than concentration, with mental activity (including attention, intention, and effort) being seen with near-equal preference as the object
    • Whole body breathing; years 5-6; 9 and 13 day retreats; after spending a couple years with the blue kasina I mostly cured my previous issue of generating tension when focusing, plus my clarity and ease of mindfulness around mental phenomena was greatly increased. I learned a style of attention/knowing which is inherently soft, open, and accepting and thus inherently blissful and actually dissolving of phenomena. It seemed like the kasina was going to be difficult to keep deepening into later TMI stages and I had fixed the issue that had prompted me to start using it, plus I was seemingly getting more and more into my head (a natural danger since I am a scientist). I thus decided to shift gears back towards body-based objects and practices yet with the primary goal continuing to be better samatha. So I took up whole body breathing a la Ajahn Geoff plus listening to a lot of Burbea's Jhana retreat talks. Also started learning qigong.

A. Dietrich Ringle, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Opening the Energy Gates practice log

Posts: 882 Join Date: 12/4/11 Recent Posts
  • Blue kasina; years 4-5; 9, 4, and 15 day retreats using this; following instructions of a senior student of Culadasa I simply gazed at the whole of the disk with a steady intention to mostly ignore its impermanent aspects. Never closed my eyes, simply steadied attention until I could see it with my eyes closed in my mind's eye (never happened). This was a very beneficial practice because it showed me how to concentrate without controlling, as well as the light blue color I used seemed to deeply balance my mind and body to some extent, "permanently" giving me some yin to balance my yang nature. However, I found it quite difficult to transition to truly exclusive attention as well as ignore vipassana aspects of the experience. Basically I'd get to stage 6 and then it would become more like choiceless awareness than concentration, with mental activity (including attention, intention, and effort) being seen with near-equal preference as the object
I don't know if you had an experience or not like stream entry. One of my post stream entry conclusions I met with was that specks of dirt hiding in my house were just pixels. I told this to a therapist. He agreed. Are you ready to give it all up, including your health and hygiene (in this life), for the sake of wisdom?

BTW, nice command of the semicolon. 

A. Dietrich Ringle, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Opening the Energy Gates practice log

Posts: 882 Join Date: 12/4/11 Recent Posts
Whole body breathing; years 5-6; 9 and 13 day retreats; after spending a couple years with the blue kasina I mostly cured my previous issue of generating tension when focusing, plus my clarity and ease of mindfulness around mental phenomena was greatly increased. I learned a style of attention/knowing which is inherently soft, open, and accepting and thus inherently blissful and actually dissolving of phenomena. It seemed like the kasina was going to be difficult to keep deepening into later TMI stages and I had fixed the issue that had prompted me to start using it, plus I was seemingly getting more and more into my head (a natural danger since I am a scientist). I thus decided to shift gears back towards body-based objects and practices yet with the primary goal continuing to be better samatha. So I took up whole body breathing a la Ajahn Geoff plus listening to a lot of Burbea's Jhana retreat talks. Also started learning qigong.
Maybe you did get stream entry? A lot of time I think that in order to gain stream entry, one must permanately dialouge with mental illness, but nowadays it seems like anything might be possible, even maybe getting off some of my meds? Ok back to your log.
Bames Jond, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Opening the Energy Gates practice log

Posts: 16 Join Date: 5/25/15 Recent Posts
My self-diagnosis is as having been to equanimity (or some sub-sub-sub-nana of equanimity) a number of times but never having actually hit real SE. I guess I don't know for sure that I am not having really subtle cessations, but I would guess the answer is no. I am quite wary of light definitions of SE, and e.g. my baseline meditation skills, though far better than those of an un-trained person, are still pretty bad compared to what many people report here (easily experiencing clear jhanas in daily life). From the embodied perspective, my energy body is not "on" the way that a friend of mine who has SE experiences (body basically always subtly vibrating with bliss when he tunes to it) and the PoI dogma of starting at A&P would make me think it should be. Fundamentally, I still suffer a lot when I don't have a lot of practice momentum. I have often thought that I hope I don't have SE, because if I do, then enlightenment must be weak. Who knows though, I'll describe more of my practice and someone can chime in if they think it's reminiscent of post-SE...
Bames Jond, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Opening the Energy Gates practice log

Posts: 16 Join Date: 5/25/15 Recent Posts
Practice 8/1-8/7

Got about 15 hours in or so. Mostly in the form of 90 minute strong determination sits plus some hours that I count which involve learning Opening the Energy Gates from the online class, a weekly dhamma discussion group, lying down meditation, and certain partner practices where I endeavor to continuously practice dissolving tensions and blockages as well as direct energy to some degree. Note that this past week and the upcoming two weeks are going really tough for big practice hours because I am doing a bunch of travel/moving and have a very active project at work.

When sitting I've been practicing whole body breathing a la Ajahn Geoff, with a mix of techniques including long breathing (counting to 10 in, counting down from 12 out), steady focus on a wide and not particularly well-defined area below and in from my navel with the intention to keep it open and allow breath to flow through naturally, the classic whole body scan technique where I open up any blockages in the breathing cycle that I find, and just letting the awareness be broad through the whole body and opening any areas that feel especially stuck.

Probably the deepest sit I had occurred on 8/3, where after 30 minutes of [lots of thinking but never totally off the object, not particularly bright]-practice, focusing on keeping the area below and in from my navel open and relaxed I then had about 10-15 minutes of significantly deeper focus, where at one point I noticed that the noise from my partner working and living in our small studio apartment was significantly muted, the boundary of my body had become indistinct, vaporous, and pleasurably soft. The sense of the area of focus was quite subtle and refined, soft, relaxed, and relatively continuous despite a fair bit of thoughts off in the background. After about 15 minutes of this I seem to recall falling back to a more ordinary state of consciousness which I'd characterize as a little more dull, thoughts more often pushing the object into the background, a weaker intention to be with the object, and some restlessness.

Earlier in the week I did a lot of the scanning technique. I often find with that I can become fairly continuously engaged with the meditation but because the object is moving it isn't always quite as deep as being equivalently engaged with a fixed area. After 8/3 I didn't have another notably deep sit, I was experiencing a lot more agitation and restlessness in general and had a number of sits with lots of mind wandering. I generally stay pretty light on the effort but I am thinking about mixing in a bit more of the counting within the breath (e.g. 10 count on inhale, 12 count on exhale) at the start of sits to give a good platform.

One thing I have trouble with coming from a TMI background is that I find that the whole body breathing technique tends to develop in a different way than the fixed object TMI approach. I find that with the whole body breathing distractions can still arise at relatively deep levels of focus, but that the overall sense is one of much greater stillness, ease, and enjoyment. Whereas TMI practice leads to greater stability of attention earlier, but it's often accompanied by a sense of dryness, blockage in the body, or just a really noisy mind. I'm confident they lead to similar places I just think the way they get there is a little different. I remind myself of this because sometimes I have a really nice session of whole body breathing like on 8/3, but from the TMI point of view it would probably be classified as stage 4 practice because even in that period of deeper focus I wasn't devoting mental resources to monitoring distractions and instantly correcting and so had a few "gross distractions." I was putting all those resources into deeply experiencing the body and being really sensitive and soft with the breath. I've tested this by the way, switching between narrow breath at the nose TMI style and whole body breathing and found that stage 6 TMI can be easily reached even from a whole body breathing practice level that has a fair bit of gross distraction... I should probably post about this at some point because I have a whole theory here about attention vs awareness, concentration vs insight...

An interesting daily life experience occurred. I was in a very odd state of consciousness for the whole evening on (I THINK, not 100% sure what day it way) 8/3. I don't really know how to put my finger on it but it was basically like a high degree of sati (for me) combined with a totally ordinary, boring, bored state of consciousness that I would usually not be aware of. This persisted for a couple hours while my partner and I were out doing a couple errands. We brought some food back to our place, and I kept feeling this totally bizarre overall sense of myself. After taking a couple bites of the food, I had this intense experience of awareness knowing awareness. It felt like this building feeling of knowing watching knowing. There was a rising sense of existential fear - of immediate mortal danger around the knowing. Also there was a subtle perception of an ellipsoidal annulus of light in the air, above and in front of my head and at an angle but with the hole in the light approximately lining up with my head. The fear peaked with this perception and then quickly subsided over the next 30 minutes or so. No idea what it would've been had I "gone with it" but I don't think I went with it. I think this may have lined up with my regression into agitation and mind-wandering in formal practice.

Note on qigong: haven't been able to fit it in this past week but will this week.
Bames Jond, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Opening the Energy Gates practice log

Posts: 16 Join Date: 5/25/15 Recent Posts
Practice 8/8-8/21

About 12 hours the first week and around only 6 hours the second. Busy with travel and a number of last-minute obligations before another move. As far as practice mostly stuck with the whole body breathing and did only a couple qi gong sessions. Had at least one further experience of effortlessness clarity off the cushion, felt like my head was completely gone and everything was easily and naturally known in a wide and peaceful way. Very beautiful. This was after a period of something I've felt a lot in the past two weeks - a significant sense of physical dis-ease concentrated mostly in my head. Basically feels like a lot of pressure in my forehead and around my eyes. Today I also noticed that there was also painful feeling in my hands, feet, and a few sharp pains around my chest area. This is all somewhat correlated with more negative emotions, including ill-will, lust, anxiety, and light depressive tones. Since that experience of clarity (on 8/9 in fact) my experience has been more in the realm of dullness, blockages in my head, and negative emotions. In the past couple days I've noticed a shift to an increasingly intense urge to more effort based and controlling meditation, and generally aversive tone towards uncomfortable feelings. I almost think I am sick but noticing it has been arising and passing makes me think it is more likely meditation related.

I'll start posting more frequently so I can make these more accurate and detailed, plus I'll be practicing more now that I've moved and finally settled in. Hope to really get discplined with some big 20+ hour weeks.

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