Meditation & energy work techniques 2006-02-21
I guess it's time I wrote up the techniques I use to do stuff in my head. I'll try to make these comprehensible to other people; please let me know if some of it is obscure, so I can fix that. It's not intentionally so. If I've left anything out, please let me know.
The terms I use for these techniques are solely my own.
These are listed in order of progression; one skill builds, roughly, upon another. They're not all necessary, and some are perhaps better not learned at all. This is the order in which I learned them; I make no claim that will be ideal for you.
They are all simple.
None are easy.
What you can do with them will depend heavily on what you want. What I describe here subsumes more or less everything I know of meditation and related practices, except in that I'm not writing out the consequences (you'll have to figure those out yourself) nor the numerous variants. I will try to sketch the effects and usefulness of each - but seriously, this is something best explored for yourself. These are all things that I have practiced for many, many hours; I expect that the same would be needed for others, but perhaps not.
Your mileage will vary.
It is not necessary to have practiced them for a very long time before you are able to see effects; nor is it necessary to have mastery of any one skill before practicing another, or an application. Just be aware that the subtlety of your control will vary with skill, and some of the applications are perhaps not ones you would want to invoke without understanding the consequences. That said, the only way you can learn the consequences is by invoking them. They won't kill you, nor cause any permanent damage; just be careful when you're playing with something new, is all.
Some of these techniques, I suspect, will only make sense in hindsight, once you already know them. The variants I mention are for the benefit of those of you who come across those in other places, or have already, just to point out that they are aspects of the same thing.
I have left out those techniques that are fundamentally multi-person in nature - that is, ones that require a partner, or a target, or etc. Mainly, this is because I don't yet know them well enough. However, my philosophy is that you should first be able to control yourself, before trying to create change in others. I am sure that ways to extend these to partner situations will be readily apparent if you think about it.
However, I wouldn't recommend limiting yourself to the techniques I mention here. Solitude is not a path for most.
For the empaths in the audience: I recommend these as highly effective and proven ways to deal with the world in a sane way - rather than being overwhelmed, shutting down, or constantly moved around without volition.
I am no guru, nor desire to become one. And I am hardly far along in my practice. I am sure that I will come up with stronger or more subtle stuff as I go - and for that matter, that you will also (perhaps stuff that I don't know or can't do yet - let me know). But, these have worked well for me, and I know that many people do not know them - or will pay money to people who do want guru status for teaching this. So, here it is for free. It's really not that hard.
And yes, they really are that simple.
One-point meditation (Variants: mantra recitation; spot-focus; sport / work 'zone'ing)
Get comfy. Focus on one thing. Elaborate it. Repeat.
Example 1: "Spot on the wall." Look at (not 'stare at', which connotes glazing-over) a spot on the wall or ceiling just above your level vision. See as much detail as you can. Keep looking, picking up more and more detail; there is always more to see.
Example 2: Breath meditation. Notice your breathing. Deepen it, slow it, notice the intricacies of where your breathing, what muscles move, what parts of your long fill and what don't. Try to breathe by filling the bottom first, then up more. There are very numerous variations of this; I would suggest as a basic to start with 5 seconds in, 1 hold, 5 out, 1 hold, and lengthen that to something like 20/3/20/3 as you get better. More out-breath will be more relaxing; more in will be more invigorating.
No-point meditation (Variants: "zen"; mushin; Scientologist style trance-induction)
Get comfy. Focus on the background of your mind. Gently turn away all conscious thoughts, including the thought of doing so. Continue until the mind is quiet.
All-point meditation (Variant: martial arts "soft eyes")
Go somewhere with a lot of stimulation available - up this with skill level. Eg: a river; a downtown area with plenty of people; etc.
Get comfy somewhere where you can observe everything. Try to see everything - not any one thing at a time. Do not focus on anything, and do not get 'attached' to anything; let it all pass by, but be observed. Over time, up the stimulation - add more senses (sight, touch, smell, sound, etc), broaden peripheral vision, etc.
This method of meditation will probably be easier as a beginning method for people with ADD or other difficulty doing empty-mind or single focus techniques, and makes for a good way to 'break in' to the rest. The others will get easier once you can do any particular one.
Energy circuit (Variants: "energy balls"; conceptual vs generative / fire vs water cycles; many more complex forms)
For me, this came naturally; I have some difficulty explaining it to those who've not had the experience.
Get comfy. Pay attention to the pulse of the energy in your body; this is not the same as your heartbeat. It's somewhat asymmetric, though regular; rather like waves. Just concentrate on noticing it.
Descriptions of the sensation vary - electrical; heat; cold; magnetic repulsion/attraction; colors; etc. You'll have to figure out what it is for you.
Once you can notice it at will, try moving it along - slowing or quickening the cycle, changing the pulse, etc. The easiest is the line up the spine, over the head, and down the front center (roughly speaking).
The other common version is to create a sort of 'ball' of sensation in your hand. Hold your hand relaxed, palm cupped and up (or palms facing each other), and do the same - notice the current, then start to play with it.
This (as with everything) should be a very playful thing - experiment, see what you can do. See what if feels like, what other things come up.
If you are doing this strongly, traditional recommendation is that you touch the tip of your tongue to your palate and put some awareness in the anus, as these are two 'gaps' in the flow. Analogy is somewhat like an electrical arc - better to keep it continuous. Again, experiment.
Flame & Void
Method: Close your eyes. Picture a single, bright flame, independent of any source - like the flame of a match or a candle. Visualize it strongly; see the flickering, the little variations in color and intensity. Feed into it everything else sensory until there's nothing in your perception but the flame, until it's against a background of deep black void. Feed it anything you'd like to dissociate yourself from - emotions, sensations, thoughts, etc. Repeat until you can't feel them any more.
Effect: Very strong dissociative. Useful for e.g. forcing your body to do something despite pain; as a temporary measure to suppress unpleasant thoughts or reactions so you can get work done; as a temporary measure to gain distance from something too strongly emotional to deal with immediately. Etc.
Warning: This is not a technique to be used frequently, or on a long-term basis (the same goes for all dissociative techniques). Longterm use is draining - more so than readily apparent until it's too late. Does NOT remove the 'problem', because they remain unresolved; it's only useful as a temporary measure to avoid dealing with something, or to ignore it. Be careful not to damage your body if you repress pain; it's there for a reason. This technique is highly addictive and dependency-forming.
Seriously: be careful. This one is not a toy.
Inner sanctum ("Standard" self-hypnosis)
Method: Get comfy, close your eyes. Picture yourself at the top of something leading down - a staircase, a hill, a space through which you fly or swim. One step at a time, go down. At each step, elaborate the area around you - what does the environment feel like, smell like, look like; what is the surrounding area made of; etc. At the bottom (10th, traditionally) step, you'll be in sanctum.
What this looks like is extremely idiosyncratic. Mine's a sort of lush valley glade with a forest and lake. A friend of mine used a stone and wood room, with a fireplace and chairs and books. Use whatever calms you, makes you feel at home; populate it if you like - this is where the idea of a 'power animal' or familiar comes in. Relax, look around, get to know the place.
Reverse the process to come out - step by step, come out and let it fade below you.
Try to do this a few times before using it in a stressful situation.
Effect: Calming. Lets you change your mind state in any situation to one of peace; also can be a mild to strong dissociative (see above warning). Very useful for 'exploring' your inner world - be aware that everything is going to be symbolic, not literal, at best.
More advanced versions involve intentionally creating or exploring particular areas or things; interacting with / talking to an aspect of Self, there; etc. This is likely to be highly idiosyncratic - again, explore and see what it does for you. It's your world.
It is possible, though difficult, to invite others in.
Method: Picture / feel yourself surrounded by a bubble. Visualize it, feel it, etc. This varies for everyone - from something very close to skin, to a few feet out; different colors or none at all; pulsing or static; different shapes; different ways of reacting to incoming things (reflection, absorption, walling, selective filtering, dissociative filtering, etc. Practice it, and practice several different kinds to learn their effects.
This can be layered - one type inside another of different type.
Effects: The consistency and symbolism you put into this will again by very idiosyncratic, but can result in dramatically different effects. This includes for example: calm observation; dissociation (walls); limited but effective defenses (absorption); not being affected by negative things, but still open to the positive (skilled filtering); etc.
You'll have to figure out what symbolism works for you (colors, shapes, textures, symbols, sounds, etc), and what effects you want it to create. It'll do what you want it to.
Energy to support this is normally drawn from your internal reserves - this can be changed (e.g. to feed off environment, or to not work in such a way as to require any maintenance feed), but be careful with overworking your shields. Most folk need to drop them and recharge from time to time.
Warning: Be careful what you wish for.
Method: Very variable, and fairly tied into your religious views. The easiest way to describe it is as connecting yourself very strongly to something far, far larger than yourself - something that doesn't mind at all if you use it for support and pull as much energy as you like from it (since it has so much more).
Common visualizations include a tree sinking roots very deep into the earth; sitting underwater as swirling sand slowly settles around you; being directly connected to / enveloped by God; etc. Again, experiment. Use something that symbolizes stability, calm, and a large / infinite reserve of energy.
Effect: Calming, restorative. Smooth and sure motion; highly useful and common for martial arts. Aiding decision-making; coming to acceptance with whatever you've already subconsciously decided.
In combination with shielding, this is the easiest basic way for empaths to deal with the world.
Method: This is partially what is practiced in "all-point" meditation. Basically: perceive things (including your own emotions / thoughts), but don't try to hold on to them; let them pass through you without judgment, regret, or etc.
Effect: Hard to describe, but peaceful. Can be somewhat surreal at times. Good for heightening empathy, or for being a "good listener".
This is a different method for empaths, and obviates the need for shields; just let others' emotions flow through you without being so affected by them or by the desire to change them. Allows you to see beauty even in painful things.
Walking meditation / eyes-open method
Method: This is more of a meta-technique than something of itself. Basically, take the aforementioned techniques - particularly the basic three meditations, and especially breath-meditation - and do them without first getting yourself comfy and in a special place etc. That is, do them when you're just normally walking around, eating, exercising, riding the bus, driving, talking to people, whatever. Don't always close your eyes. Do it as much as possible - whenever you notice yourself not doing it, just resume.
Effect: This is a way to wean yourself off of the notion that meditation is only something you do in special circumstances - the stereotypical quiet, comfy room in asana with some nice incense - and instead is one you do all the time. Absolutely necessary, in my opinion, for getting beyond simpler practices, and to get a better / deeper understanding of yourself and the effect of meditation.
More pragmatically, this sort of weaning ensures that when in a situation in which you want to change your mind state urgently - e.g. a stressful situation, or one in which you must act now, you have that available to you. Needs to be practiced to break and re-associate that context.
Method: Experience some state strongly - adrenaline-rush, love, joy, anger, sadness, meditation, whatever you like. Memorize it. Memorize exactly what it feels like, in as much detail as you can; pay attention.
Invocation, crudely put, is the act of remembering a state strongly enough to put yourself back in it. It is difficult to do without having the primary experience first (but this can be done). Remembering in this sense is the opposite process as the previous encoding - remember what some aspect was like, and be like that. Change your breath, dump some adrenalin into your system, change your heart rate, etc.
At first, this is a somewhat slow and detailed process, but with practice it turns into something you can do in an instant of decision.
Effect: Very useful, for very many things. Basically, this is an extension of the walking-meditation concept: invoke any mind state at will. A necessary thing to learn for, e.g., invoking a grounded state in an emergency situation, etc.
Invoking joy is, in my experience, particularly useful once you learn it. It allows for a very different perspective on many things, including ones that would in other states be hurtful. Very hard to describe to someone who's not done it.
Invoking other things can be quite utilitarian - e.g. adrenaline to get awake in the morning (the hard part is remembering to invoke it when you're sleep-hazy).
Remember to continue having primary experiences, of course - but combining the two aspects (encoding and retrieval) can ensure that the experience is more strongly felt, since this is a potentially recursive technique. (To recurse, just keep switching between encoding and remembering; there's a slight blip in intensity with each iteration, during which time you can switch to the other, making it a positive feedback loop.)
Warning: Do not recurse adrenaline, anger, or related things. Dangerous.
Linking / triggering (mantra, sanctum, etc)
Method: Essentially, this is a matter of having one (simple) think invoke another (more difficult) one. This is the other major driving force behind mantras, and the primary one behind all symbols, stones, incense use, etc.
Experience the trigger and the triggered thing together, repeatedly. In certain cases, this is automatic - like with mantra-recitation meditation. In others, you'll need to invoke both to create that bond - like tying the idea of being physically attacked to some particular useful mind state. This, of course, is not necessarily something that you would want to do repeatedly in real life (although that is a more effective way to consolidate the link).
Effect: Triggers can be used to have any inner out outer state cause any inner response you like, and as such are very customizable. It can be wise to ensure that all triggers that invoke dangerous states - e.g. massive adrenaline + anger dump for protection, or dissociative states for the same, etc - also have associated triggers to get you out of those states when they don't apply or when the need is over.
These can also be tied to particular keywords (spoken by yourself or others), people, actions, things, etc.
This is a useful aid to pure "intent" invocation - e.g. by associating an invocation to some object (a shielding / grounding stone is common).
Warning: While definitely a powerful and useful technique, this is another case of being very careful what you wish for. Triggers can of course be undone, but depending on how long it's been and how strongly you put them in in the first place, this can be a difficult and/or painful process. So, make sure you know what you're doing and what you want, and don't strongly encode stuff that you don't want to be with you permanently.
More advanced stuff: You can make triggers "tamper-resistant" or otherwise stronger by having multiple ones that reinforce each other. Or, e.g., have triggers that are set to go off on another one being taken down. This can obviously be recursive. More elaborate setups will probably come to mind if you think about it.
However, as a serious not-kidding-here warning - don't do it, or at the very least put in some reliable backdoors. It makes removal once you realize you were an idiot and there's a better way x years down the line way harder (duh).
Removal: Hit, or approach hitting, the trigger while ensuring that your response is whatever you want it to be changed to. Pause as needed. Identical to encoding really - just you have to simultaneously deal with (and accept/negate/overwrite the effects of) the old stuff also. If you take your time, making sure you don't do it stronger than you can handle (eg old trigger invoked X; you overwrite it with Y), this isn't too hard.
This is basically the standard method of gradually acclimatizing people to treat phobias. Being scared (and relaxing from it) is unavoidably part of the process. You have to accept what the old stuff was before you can really change it (using 'free flow' and self-affection on your own emotional state can come in useful here, depending on what you're dealing with). Be patient, here; if you spent a very long time reinforcing this setup in the first place, it can take a while to undo that.
Method: Invoke (visualize, etc) the feeling of comforting a loved one in need - the physical sensation of an enveloping hug, any accompanying mannerisms (hair-stroking and the like), and that sort of protective / guarding feel. (This can be somewhat aggressive-protective, of course - the sort of response you get when someone or something external threatens something under your protection.)
Next, put yourself in the opposite position - of being relaxed and protected and able to let go etc.
Rapid-cycle these, switching back and forth. At first, it's easiest to picture yourself in each case as interacting with someone else; the next step would be to turn that someone else into a sort of "clone" (aspect-of-self); and the last is to make it not second-person at all but entirely recursive.
Effect: For one, it's a good way to get healing when it's not immediately available from others.
However, this is also a very grounding / relaxing technique, and can be a rather joyful experience. Good for getting to know yourself as you are when stripped - rather than just the shields-on, self-protective, possibly rigid version. Everyone needs acceptance and affection, after all - this lets you provide it to yourself. Good for actually resolving negative emotions. Good way to be calmly but firmly defensive of your boundaries.
You'll know the rest when you try it.
Warning: I've only recently been doing this. I'm pretty sure it is not, as such, harmful in any way. However, it can be very eerie, and you need to pay attention to making sure that you don't simultaneously sever all contact with the outside world simply because you're fulfilling the main need that ties you to it.
While I would not call these 'toys', it's good to take a playful but respectful attitude to all of this. Have fun, explore, poke around in the dusty places. Use your powers for good. Many of these techniques can be used to put you in not just a calm zen state of mind, but also rather happy and joyful (and sensual and etc) ones.
It's your mind; ultimately, all of these techniques are merely ways to channel / focus your willpower. There are many different ways of acheiving the same effects - a more advanced version of invocation; some more chaotic stuff; smart drug use; gestalt participation; etc. I don't think I can teach them, but I'm pretty sure that if you've learned these (or otherwise had a strong practice for a while), you'll figure them out for yourself.
The things that I have labeled as dangerous are, basically, issues of being really, really sure that you know what you want - 'cause that's what you're going to get. Remember, the way of dealing with something you decide on is not the same as wanting to resolve an issue. Concentrating too much on the former can get you stuck into one method - perhaps one that's not, longterm, in your best interest.
For those of you with other experience, you'll probably notice some ... features of my approach that differ from those you are familiar with. My suggestion: try it my way, and see how it works - but more importantly, find your version of these. I've tried to make the descriptions as generic as possible, with the expectation that it will vary a lot depending on your symbolset, religious practices / beliefs, existing internal 'setup', etc.
My intent is mainly to just put into words what I do. You'll probably find that you're already doing some or all of them, in one form or another; hopefully, this will give you some ideas of how to extend your existing practice, or variants to try. If you've not done one before, but have others, see if you can find an analogue of that one, that works in your existing system.
When you see other systems - eg ritual magic(k), transcendental meditation, tantra, Christian prayer, etc - see how they're related. IME, what I've listed here covers everything, broadly. More specific paths will, obviously, teach specialized variants and go into more detail. Breath meditation alone is the subject of many books' worth of good reading. The important part is to start practicing, figure it out as you go, and learn more on the way.
Lastly: You are the only person who can answer the important questions. If you want to know who you are, or what some symbol means, or what you really want (vs how you think that can be realized), etc... just ask, and have the patience to listen to the answers.