When Energy Runs Wild

Energy Imbalances

When you are sitting in meditation, you may feel in your body where energy is unable to flow. You may feel pain, or other uncomfortable sensations at a certain point in the body. Often, the meditation instruction is to put attention on the sensations, to experience them without reaction. When you are out of balance, energetically, this approach can compound problems. Energy follows attention, and by putting attention on the sensations caused by the imbalances, you are likely to increase the imbalance because you are drawing more energy into it.

Energy imbalances arise when energy is unable to flow. Something feels blocked, knotted, or tied up. The blocked energy tends to stagnate and starts to attack the organs and the nervous system in that area of your body. Stagnant energy can cause a wide range of imbalances that have both physical and emotional manifestations.

If symptoms of imbalance occur with increasing frequency and/or intensity, you may find energy-balancing techniques helpful. For instance, feel (and if you can’t feel, then imagine) energy collecting in the center of the body, at a point a couple of inches below the navel and an inch in front of the spine (the hara in Zen practice). Then feel (or imagine) it gently spreading from that point through your lower abdomen, then your whole torso, then your arms and legs and head, and then out through all the pores of your skin to form a field of energy in which you sit, with the field extending two or three inches beyond your body. If energy imbalances arise, do this two or three times in the evening. You can also do it at the end of every meditation session, as it will help to distribute energy evenly through your whole system and reduce the likelihood of imbalances.

Energy imbalances are nothing to trifle with. The more potent energy transformation practices (such as tumo, vase breathing, anu yoga, certain forms of pranayama and qi gong), practices in which you are transforming basic energies in the body to power attention, are all dangerous if not practiced properly. They can result in death, paralysis, or insanity, and for this reason need to be learned under the guidance of a capable and experienced teacher.

The physical ailments associated with imbalances are generally untreatable by medical system. While techniques like massage or acupuncture can help, such methods don’t usually treat the underlying block, which is, in my experience, always due to some deeply conditioned emotional issue. Sooner or later, one way or another, the underlying emotional issue needs to be addressed.

Here are two approaches that can be safely employed in your practice. The first is to keep the field of attention open when you are working with sensations in the body. That is, instead of focusing attention on the part of the body where the sensations arise, hold your whole body in attention and experience the discomfort as a sensation that arises in a field of attention that includes your whole body. A simple instruction for this is, “Crown of the head, soles of the feet, hold these both in attention, and experience everything in between.” This approach keeps the sensations associated with the block in attention without leading energy into the pool of stagnant energy. The open field of attention allows the stagnant pool to dissipate over time and the block may also release.

The second approach adds an additional wrinkle. In the field of attention that includes your whole body, hold the sensations of the block and the sensations of what wants to move in attention at the same time. The block is there for a reason, and, like Milarepa’s demons, you can’t just ignore it or send it away. Accept the block. Accept the movement of energy. Put attention not on the block but a little beyond the block and lead energy through it. In time, it will open, like a flower opening to the warmth of the sun. This is not a process you control. Just experience all the sensations associated with the tension and imbalance, and let things resolve themselves. These approaches take time and patience, of course, but are generally safe and will not lead to further problems.

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