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All of our posts to date have been moved to the new website, so you can read everything there.

Recently I’ve received a number of emails from people asking about feeling energy in various ways while meditating. People have reported things like a feeling of energy flowing and tingling.  One person said it felt like water on the top of his head at the crown chakra with a sense of a slow circular motion under the skull while doing the chakra meditation. Sometimes people have these experiences outside of meditation as well.

There are lots of reasons why people ask about this. Some people may feel uncomfortable because they don’t understand these experiences. Others are simply curious about them, or interested in subtle energies. It can be helpful to understand our experiences in meditation, not only so that we can be comfortable with them but also to integrate them into our understanding of ourselves. Meditation is, among other things, an exploration of oneself. So I thought I’d explore this a little here. 

If you don’t have these experiences in meditation, doesn’t matter. You can still enjoy the benefit of meditation on all levels. If you don’t care about these experiences or even believe in them, fine.  Some people do, some don’t.  This is for those of you who are curious about such things.

I like to keep things simple and not get too esoteric about these experiences.  The bottom line on all of them is that during meditation we can sense subtle energies in the body (or even in the energy field around the body). That happens because during meditation our awareness can go to deeper levels.  We can feel subtle energies that we normally don’t notice.  In addition, some meditations can open up our energies so that they start to flow more freely.

Whether you are experiencing these energies as moving or still, flowing through the body or in one area, tingly or liquid, and so on isn’t important.  What’s important is simply to understand that this is a natural experience as these energies are enlivened and as we open up to noticing them.  

Sometimes people start to focus on the energetic sensations, wanting to control them or magnify them.  My advice is to treat them like thoughts, not paying any special attention to them.  Just continue the meditation, not minding the sensations.  Let them go the way they naturally go.  In this way you are trusting the wisdom of the body as it adjusts itself and comes into more balance.  Let the natural intelligence of the body do it’s work rather than trying to manipulate the energies from your side. That way things will unfold in a more balanced way.

Please feel free to share any of your experiences and ask questions about them on this blog.  I may be able to give more specific answers to specific experiences.

Note: What I say here refers to experiences while listening to our guided meditations on the podcast or our CDs.  It may or may not apply to experiences during other meditation practices.

Online Sangha

This morning I was delighted to learn (from a comment on a blog post) that our Breath in the Heart Meditation would be shared online as part of Plumline‘s Monday morning Sangha.  In fact, it is going on as I write.  

Although Buddhist studies have not been a part of my background, and I have had no training in mindfulness meditation, I am always struck by how much my meditations seem to resonate with those traditions.  As I’ve said before, the deepest truths can be arrived at and expressed through many different paths.  

I enjoyed visiting the Plumline website.  Plumline describes itself as “Building online Sangha in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh”.  For those who don’t know, “Sangha”, roughly translated, means spiritual community.  A community of like-minded practitioners is felt to be essential to support on-going spiritual practice in Buddhism.    

Those interested in Buddhism may want to visit Plumline.  Thich Nhat Hanh, from whom they derive their inspiration, has written one of my all-time favorite poems – “Call Me by My True Names”.  (See Thich Nhat Hanh speaking on mindfulness on YouTube.)

I’ve come to feel our podcasts are like a giant group meditation.  We don’t see and meet each other for the most part, but we truly are meditating together — thousands of us.  I’ve hoped to provide some support for that experience in this blog and on our Meditation Oasis website. Perhaps there are yet other ways that we can create community for those who are interested. I’ve thought of different ways — an online course, a chat group, a conference call.  I’m not sure what will actually manifest, and would be interested in your ideas.

We’ve had several requests for a meditation having to do with coping with change, and here it is.  

Just looking at my own life over the past couple months reveals a staggering amount of change.  I’m sure any one of you could report the same. 

Change, of course, is in the nature of life.  It’s constant.  Life is movement.  Life is one thing morphing into another.  We don’t realize how many changes we are experiencing all the time. The weather changes, our moods change as our hormones fluctuate, relationships, technology and institutions are constantly changing — it’s endless. 

Change can be exciting, but it can also be challenging.   Whether it’s a major life change or a myriad of other smaller changes, change is constant and change takes time and energy.  What’s more is that it can be mentally and emotionally challenging.  We need to develop mental clarity, emotional stability and adaptable bodies to deal with all the change.

Meditation is one of the best ways to surf the waves of change.  The Flowing with Change Meditation can help with change in several ways.  First, it helps us relax into the reactions that we have to change so that we can be more clear mentally and have more emotional stability. The second is that the deep relaxation of meditation helps us recharge our batteries so that we have more energy for dealing with change.  And finally, the meditation helps us connect with that which doesn’t change — the unchanging nature of our own awareness which is present throughout all our experience.  That awareness is wakeful and intelligent.  It is unchanging and constant, and recognizing it helps us to feel anchored in the midst of change.

I am responding to a question from a listener who experienced emotional pain while using the Chakra Meditation.  Here is his email:

I was today listening to the Chakra meditation podcast, but felt it was necesarry to turn it off at the Heart Chakra. I found that I became overwhelmed by a feeling of great emotional pain in my heart… I thought I would e-mail you to see if you knew what might be causing this, and how to find the solution.

It’s not unusual to become more aware of our emotions during meditation, and even to have strong emotions or emotional pain come up.  I will write about that in general in another post (or talk about it in another podcast), but for now I’ll talk specifically about having this happen during the Chakra Meditation.

During the chakra meditation, we put our attention on the various chakras.  The chakras, or energy centers of the body, are like doorways to different aspects of ourselves.  They process the energy for our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual functioning.  When we put our attention on a chakra, we become more aware of what is going on in the part of our life that the chakra represents.  Not only do we become more aware, but the energy in the chakra is enlivened by our attention.  

Our attention is a beam of energy and intelligence and, like a laser beam, it affects whatever it is directed toward.  With your awareness on your heart chakra, you may get in touch with something going on in your heart area.  It’s like shining a light into a dark room — what has been hidden becomes revealed.

In this case, you felt great emotional pain.  This could be pain associated with something going on in your life now that you’ve been ignoring, or it could be some pain “releasing” from the past.  The heart chakra has to do with our relationships and connections with others.  If there has been some loss or hurt in relationships, it is felt in the heart area.  The loss or hurt could even be associated with things and events, such as moving or losing a job.  If the feeling of hurt (or perhaps grief) isn’t fully “processed”, the energy of the feeling gets “stuck” in the heart chakra.  When we put our attention on the heart chakra, we may feel what is waiting there to be processed.  It’s the job of the heart chakra to process certain emotions, and when we relax in meditation and allow our attention to go there, the heart chakra gains the energy to do its job.  While no one likes to experience emotional pain, it is a part of healing and recovering from an emotional trauma. 

Very often we have grief that hasn’t been fully resolved in our lives.  Some cultures are better than others in supporting people through grief.  In many of our Western cultures, we’ve learned to suppress grief.  But our mind and body will always move toward greater balance and emotional well-being given the opportunity.  While meditating, things that have been under the surface can come up to be felt.

When something comes up that makes you feel too uncomfortable, you can always do what you did and stop the meditation.  It would be good if that happens to lie down and rest a bit to let things settle down. There are some other ways of dealing with strong emotions as well, and for something like this an experienced meditation guide could help.  The advice the guide would give would depend on some one-on-one exchange with you.  

After responding to the person who asked this question, he emailed back that indeed he had recently experienced a sort of emotional trauma and had been feeling quite numb until listening to the meditation. Based on that, I also want to add that it is quite normal to feel numb after a traumatic event like the death of a loved one, breakup of a relationship and any other intense loss or change.  It’s a healthy response of the body and psyche to protect itself from overload and allow us to continue functioning.  Usually that phase passes and we begin to feel our emotional reactions.  Sometimes, however, those reactions are buried and may surface again after a long period of time.  It’s not always possible to know where a strong emotion in meditation is coming from — it could be an emotion from a recent event or left over from something long ago.  In any case, part of healing is experiencing that emotion and meditation can sometimes facilitate that.  

Usually an emotional release will in meditation will not take too long to resolve and won’t cause undue discomfort.  Occasionally, however, meditation can open us up to some feelings that are so difficult for us that we would benefit from help from a trained counselor or therapist.  Be kind to yourself and get support if needed.  

Our latest podcast episode is about trust in life and trust in oneself.  It’s about a very fundamental kind of trust.  It doesn’t have to do with trusting people or things, but with a basic sense that everything is all right just as it is in each moment.  Most importantly, it has to do with the sense that we are alright, just as we are.  This trust allows us to relax into the flow of life and living, rather than resisting what is happening.

We can learn this kind of trust in meditation as we learn to relax into whatever comes up in our experience.  You may notice that at times you resist what is happening.  You may feel your mind shouldn’t be filled with thoughts, and a resistance comes up.  Or you might try to push out a particular emotion.  You may also find there are times when you try to be a certain way.  Often people feel that since they are meditating, they should feel peaceful.  There can be an attempt to try to feel peaceful.  A kind of struggle comes up, a struggle with ourselves and with life.  This struggle comes from a lack of trust.

Everything that we experience is an expression of the natural flow of life.  The energy of life flows as thoughts, emotions, sensations in the body, sounds around us.  As we meditate, we can learn to let that flow happen without interference.  We can develop a basic sense of trust in life as we learn to trust what happens within ourselves.  

I just received an email from a woman who said:  “Most importantly, your guidance also helped me recognize that I already knew how to meditate, but that I just thought of it as ‘being still’ or ‘paying attention.’ ”  Eureka — that’s it!  When we experience a meditative state during meditation, we tend to think it’s something special that happens only in meditation.  In fact, it’s something we all experience from time to time outside of meditation, but don’t notice.  We could actually think of it as the mind’s “natural state”.  It’s a very simple form of awareness, uncomplicated by the mind’s habits of judging and comparing.  It’s a state that’s there when we are neither resisting or trying to change what is naturally coming up in our experience.  It’s a state of “simply being”.

Much of the time, we are “simply being” but don’t make note of that, because the mind isn’t in the mode of standing apart and observing our experience at that time.  Sometimes, however, we’ll notice a dramatic shift into the simply-being-mode.  As I mentioned in the previous post, meditation often happens spontaneously when something we see or hear or touch jars us out of the preoccupation with the past and future.  The sight of a hummingbird at my feeder always does it for me.  What does it for you?


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