When Energy Runs Wild

Energy Transformation

When you practice meditation, or any discipline that requires attention, you inevitably transform energy. The four foundations of mindfulness illustrate the principle quite clearly. When you begin to practice, you become aware of thoughts.

In the course of our efforts, we will encounter difficulties and challenges inside us that we had no idea were there. The one additional principle, and this is perhaps the only principle that I know, is that it is best to move in the direction of balance. That direction is constantly changing and it requires faith, awareness, and compassion to sense what effort to make in each moment. The optimum condition for awakening is deep balance in every area of life and when we move to address imbalances in our own lives, increasingly, we bring about balance in the lives of others.

Five-Step Mindfulness Practice
based on The Four Foundations of Mindfulness
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Listen to the practice instructions from the fourth podcast in the There Is No Enemy series.

Do the practice with this printer-friendly summary.

In the first foundation, you bring attention to form (Skt. kaya), first to the physical sensations in the body, and then to all sensory sensations. As you rest attention in the experience of sensory sensations, energy is transformed. You are less distracted by thoughts and more aware of sensations, and you become aware of subtle feeling tones associated with each sensation.

In the second foundation, you include these feelings tones (Skt. vedana) in your attention, pleasant, unpleasant, neutral, physical, or mental. Again, energy is transformed; your mind becomes quieter and clearer, and you become aware of emotional reactions as emotional reactions.

In the third foundation, you include these emotional reactions and other mental states (Skt. citta) along with the physical sensations and feeling tones. Again, energy is transformed. You experience them, but you are not distracted or disturbed by them. Your attention becomes still clearer and more stable.

In the fourth foundation of mindfulness, mindfulness of experience (Skt. dharma), you are aware of all experience, which is everything that arises in your life—people, things, thoughts, and feelings. It’s all experience. It’s all movement in mind. Any sense of inside and outside drops away and you rest in this field of experience.

Energy Transformation: Insight and Presence
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See how insight energy transforms. This graphic summary is based on descriptions in the Mani Ka-bum (Tib. mani bka ’bum), a ninth century text in the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.

From chapter 10 of Wake Up To Your Life

It doesn’t end there, of course. Energy transformations continue, taking you into different levels of insight.

In the metaphor of the rider and the horse, when the rider opens to awareness, energy powers the opening. When the rider falls into emotional reaction, energy powers the reaction. If the horse has only a little energy, attention doesn’t go deep and you are unlikely to have any problems. If, however, you have a very powerful horse with a lot of energy and you lose attention, then you can encounter serious problems, and others may suffer, too.

After a period of intense practice, many people are surprised at how reactive they can be. During the retreat, they make a steady effort in attention and energy transforms upward, that is, the energy that powers their attention operates at a level higher than ordinary thinking. After the retreat, they usually relax their attention and the elevated energy now flows into reactive patterns. As it drops a level, it picks up momentum. The cascade of energy down from higher levels can result in much greater reactivity than normal.

The more you practice, and the deeper your practice, the more important mindfulness becomes.

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