Oneironaut

Does energy cultivation itself bring about or facilitate Buddhist enlightenment?

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Does energy cultivation itself bring about or facilitate Buddhist enlightenment?

 

Would Taoist energy cultivation make Buddhist concepts such as concentration/insight and familiarization with jhana states easier or more accessible?

 

I'm still very much a beginner when it comes to Taoism and energy cultivation so this is something I would like to discuss.

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1 hour ago, Oneironaut said:

Does energy cultivation itself bring about or facilitate Buddhist enlightenment?

 

Would Taoist energy cultivation make Buddhist concepts such as concentration/insight and familiarization with jhana states easier or more accessible?

 

I'm still very much a beginner when it comes to Taoism and energy cultivation so this is something I would like to discuss.

 

I don't see how it could. The Buddha said the thing that brings about awakening is wisdom.

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2 hours ago, Oneironaut said:

Would Taoist energy cultivation make Buddhist concepts such as concentration/insight and familiarization with jhana states easier or more accessible?

 

It certainly does (that's why Daoists do that stuff)... However meditative practice is still necessary (and forms a major part of later level Daoist cultivation) - it's just working with qi makes actual 'meditation' accessible to householders.

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Nope. Only knowledge will bring about a complete awakening — comes from inquiry and meditation.

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I'd say Buddhist (or specifically secret mantra) energy cultivation has sufficient merit in itself to facilitate the enlightening process. Yantra yoga is pretty accessible, so if interested, do check it out. Teachings (on energetic cultivation) by Dr. Nida Chenagtsang are authentic and accessible. 

 

Here he demonstrates an aspect of Buddhist energy cultivation called yoga nejang

 

Wrt the second question.... a definitive yes. 

Edited by C T
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25 minutes ago, dwai said:

Nope. Only knowledge will bring about a complete awakening — comes from inquiry and meditation.

Hey Dwai,

 

Earlier you had mentioned that you previously had a Tantra teacher.  Did you at one time (or now) develop your energy system alongside your meditation and inquiry practice?  And if so - to what end?

 

Thanks for any clarification you can give.  This is a confusing point for me!

Edited by Wilhelm
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3 hours ago, Oneironaut said:

Does energy cultivation itself bring about or facilitate Buddhist enlightenment?

 

 

Any number of things can facilitate awakening/enlightenment experiences, and from where I am presently sitting it seems any number of non-Buddhist paths can lay a “groundwork” which can either hinder or help dependent upon each individuals karma (karma being the easiest way to express the innumerable factors which seem to come into play with questions such as these - which honestly, in my opinion, do not have straight yes or no answers).

 

 

3 hours ago, Oneironaut said:

I'm still very much a beginner when it comes to Taoism and energy cultivation so this is something I would like to discuss.

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The key point in Buddhism of course is not a level of energetic development, but prajna, or wisdom. However, energy cultivation or the development of jhanas may assist in the development of prajna, but it is neither absolutely necessary nor sufficient beyond a very basic level (even if you read traditional Pali suttas/commentaries). 

 

I would say that proper energy cultivation can help strengthen the body and calm the mind, which can be useful for spiritual practice. In addition, there are certain "side effects" that can help loosen one's sense of a solid, material world. Almost every Buddhist teacher I have had has had some sort of body based practice (yoga, qigong, etc.). In addition, Taoist practices develop mindfulness, concentration, etc. which are useful in Buddhist practice. 

 

I have found personally that regular Buddhist practice also affects the subtle body. Accordingly, developing states of concentration can spontaneously open one's energy body. In addition, there are energetic effects to insight--- it is not like there is a separation between mind, subtle body, and the physical body. 

 

4 hours ago, Oneironaut said:

Does energy cultivation itself bring about or facilitate Buddhist enlightenment?

 

Would Taoist energy cultivation make Buddhist concepts such as concentration/insight and familiarization with jhana states easier or more accessible?

 

I'm still very much a beginner when it comes to Taoism and energy cultivation so this is something I would like to discuss.

 

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1 hour ago, Wilhelm said:

Hey Dwai,

 

Earlier you had mentioned that you previously had a Tantra teacher.  Did you at one time (or now) develop your energy system alongside your meditation and inquiry practice?  And if so - to what end?

 

Thanks for any clarification you can give.  This is a confusing point for me!

 

My preliminary development is predominantly driven by Daoist practices. I have of course undertaken other techniques in the early days of my practice -- Sudarshan Kriya as taught by Sri Sri Ravishankar (Art of living foundation) -- I found it very powerful from a health and purification perspective, and I entered samādhi a few times, but it was transient -- I was much younger at that time though.

 

Later, I practiced Tamil Siddhar Yoga for a few years, and it helped open up channels/purify the central channel and raise Kundalini. I stopped that because, at that point, I felt I was getting more benefit from Daoist practices (Taijiquan, other meditation techniques) and had a much closer relationship with my Sifu. At that point, I had theoretical knowledge of the wisdom systems (Advaita Vedanta primarily) but no understanding -- I mean, I could rattle off meanings, and definitions, and even verses from the texts themselves, but it was only an intellectual understanding. I couldn't grasp the actual import of the teachings. 

 

Through my practices involving mind-body (taijiquan/Daogong/Yoga) what developed is the witness mind,  which started appearing during the practice time and gradually spread into all my waking time -- but there was still confusion vis-a-vis what my True Nature was. Mainly it was this, "Who/What is observing me performing these movements, having these thoughts, etc." Imagine going through years of constantly being aware of actions/thoughts/emotions/feelings but not the clarity of what it implied :) ...

 

When I finally met my master, he did what could be considered a shaktipat/transmission to me, and that sent me into a 15-day samādhi of sorts -- in an ecstatic state while fully functional and the separation between the witness consciousness and the mind/body became permanent. I stayed like that for almost 18 months after, and my practice took a quantum leap. Strangely enough, at that point, when I re-read the Vedantic, Buddhist material, the Dao-De-Jing, etc it started to click upon me what was being pointed toward. it is at that time, I resumed my study and practice of Advaita Vedanta, and undertook the self-inquiry path. Before that, self-inquiry was not possible for me -- it confounded my mind as to what the purpose of such an undertaking would be, as I preferred the "energy/vibration" paradigm as it was directly accessible. 

 

Now, what I'm saying should not be taken out of the context of what I've been trying to say in the context of the Energy-Mind-Wisdom triumvirate for a while on this forum now. Energetics/body-mind practices are very important but they are not the end-all-be-all of practice, as I personally have experienced (and understand it) -- the primary purpose of these practices is to purify the mind by purifying the energy (Qi/Prana etc). QI/Prana and the Mind are tightly coupled. Purify the mind and the Qi gets purified -- strengthen the Qi and the mind gets strengthened. Personally, I find that working with the energy earlier is easier, as there is a method/technique involved therein, and there are sufficient milestones, etc in the paths that deal with it, to ensure we don't stray off-target, especially if we have a good teacher. 

 

In order to grasp what the wisdom traditions are actually pointing to, the mind must be clear and have the ability to focus. Working with the energetic systems helps develop that -- discipline etc are good. It is also very much possible to enter what is called "full nirvikalpa samādhi" via these methods (Yogic methods, Taijiquan/Qigong/Daogong etc). Nirvikalpa samādhi is the state in which the mind disappears and only awareness remains, by itself. But even this is not enough to provide realization of the kind that the nondual teachings (be it Buddhism or Vedanta or Daoist) point toward -- that will only come via deep inquiry into the nature of being, the nature of Self. There are of course different sets of methods outlined to help the student down that path. And the preparation to undertake such practices is not necessarily only the energetic path. The mind can be purified by selfless service of others or devotion to a deity of choice. It can be made single-pointed by what people call meditation. Only after the mind is purified and made single-pointed is when the wisdom traditions begin. 
 

P.S. If you want to enter the wisdom door, I can recommend books and materials that will help —

 

  • first and foremost Swami Sarvapriyananda’s lectures, he has multi-hour long sessions on various topics, starting from the basics to the advanced material on his YouTube channel.
  • Or study in a proper school — chinmaya mission, Vedanta society, etc. 
  • Nisragadatta Maharaj’s “I am that”. 
  • Ramana Maharishi’s teachings.

 

P.P.S. It might sound like I’m bragging, and  if it does, that is not my intention at all. As many of you might know, I don’t consider this “realization” to be an earth-shattering, sky-splitting achievement - everyone already has it, only it is veiled by layers of conditioning. FWIW, IMHO, you don’t become immortal by any means — YOU already are immortal —

unbound in space or time, you were never born, and will never die. 

Edited by dwai
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My thought is that energy cultivation can help a person do everything -- attain enlightenment, trade stocks, cook a darn good chicken soup -- because the ability to do things in general requires strength, which energy cultivation develops.  That said, it´s usually an insufficient condition.  A robust energy cultivation practice will help someone perform open heart surgery but I´d still insist my surgeon have gone to medical school.

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8 hours ago, Oneironaut said:

Does energy cultivation itself bring about or facilitate Buddhist enlightenment?

 

Would Taoist energy cultivation make Buddhist concepts such as concentration/insight and familiarization with jhana states easier or more accessible?

 

I'm still very much a beginner when it comes to Taoism and energy cultivation so this is something I would like to discuss.

 

Hi,

 

They are not the same path.  But on the other hand there is nothing called Buddhist enlightenment - just enlightenment.  the goal of Daoist energy cultivation - is immortality.  I don't think they conflict ultimately - but for the likes of us it is better to choose one and stick to it.

 

Just my opinion of course.

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2 hours ago, liminal_luke said:

My thought is that energy cultivation can help a person do everything -- attain enlightenment, trade stocks, cook a darn good chicken soup -- because the ability to do things in general requires strength, which energy cultivation develops.  That said, it´s usually an insufficient condition.  A robust energy cultivation practice will help someone perform open heart surgery but I´d still insist my surgeon have gone to medical school.

 

 

Yeah amateur open heart surgery sucks. :)

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8 hours ago, Oneironaut said:

Does energy cultivation itself bring about or facilitate Buddhist enlightenment?

 

Would Taoist energy cultivation make Buddhist concepts such as concentration/insight and familiarization with jhana states easier or more accessible?

 

I'm still very much a beginner when it comes to Taoism and energy cultivation so this is something I would like to discuss.

 

Buddhism posits that reality can be viewed from two levels, the relative and the absolute.

 

On the relative level there are practitioners of various kinds, doing practices in an attempt to "achieve" enlightenment. 

 

On the absolute level it is understood that the story of the actions and their cumulative effect is utter nonsense. 

 

The absolute is reality as seen with "wisdom", or insight/enlightenment of/to the true nature of reality. The absolute understanding includes and supersedes the relative understanding, thus both can be seen at once though the absolute view is obviously the over-arching one. It is understood experientially, and verifiably, that the faulty way of seeing reality was never true, but nonetheless the phenomena it was constructed of persist, but are empty of intrinsic existence, meaning no "things" have ever had separate existence of their own.

 

The difference between the two views is really just a fairly simple perspective shift, albeit an earth-shattering one - the belief in duality, including, but not limited to belief in space, time, and self/other. Taken together the absolute understanding eliminates a belief in practices done over time precipitating enlightenment.

 

Ultimately one can be enlightened in any moment. No practice is necessary. Resting the mind in stillness (allowing it to settle out naturally without a technique), IS resting in enlightened mind, though there may not be the realization needed to see that this is the case. The difference is simply one of recognition, and experiential understanding.

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Thanks to everyone for their responses. 

 

The reason I ask is because I feel discouraged after learning from a Theravadin monk that Shakyamuni Buddha said enlightenment is only possible through monastic means and lay people will not reach it. I figured there has to be a more practical means of approaching this. Anapansatti has been my meditation of choice for years now but I've never meditated long enough to reach very strong levels of concentration. I've been told jhanas become accessible through long retreats and cultivating this is impractical or unnecessary while fewer teachers say that "dry" vipassana that has become mainstream is watered down Buddhism. To a degree I'm receiving conflicting messages.  

 

The Theravada tradition does not concern itself with energy work or even any kind of yoga and qigong (I'm not a fan of either yoga nor qi gong) so perhaps a good neidan system will be more practical for modern day people. The most energy work I've done was reiki level 1 and I gave it up because the ki was not tangible for me so it either made me impatient or caused me to question the existence of these energies. I was going to attend a jikiden reiki course (Reiki is a system of enlightenment discovered by a lay monk and it's rooted in Japanese Tantric Buddhism. The healing modality is a "side effect") but COVID threw that plan straight out the window. 

 

Someone suggested Yantra Yoga and I'll look into it. Are there any simple Neidan systems that can also help? The simpler and more unified/integrated the better. I don't believe in having too many practices/techniques/meditations. 

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37 minutes ago, Oneironaut said:

Thanks to everyone for their responses. 

 

The reason I ask is because I feel discouraged after learning from a Theravadin monk that Shakyamuni Buddha said enlightenment is only possible through monastic means and lay people will not reach it. I figured there has to be a more practical means of approaching this. Anapansatti has been my meditation of choice for years now but I've never meditated long enough to reach very strong levels of concentration. I've been told jhanas become accessible through long retreats and cultivating this is impractical or unnecessary while fewer teachers say that "dry" vipassana that has become mainstream is watered down Buddhism. To a degree I'm receiving conflicting messages.  

 

The Theravada tradition does not concern itself with energy work or even any kind of yoga and qigong (I'm not a fan of either yoga nor qi gong) so perhaps a good neidan system will be more practical for modern day people. The most energy work I've done was reiki level 1 and I gave it up because the ki was not tangible for me so it either made me impatient or caused me to question the existence of these energies. I was going to attend a jikiden reiki course (Reiki is a system of enlightenment discovered by a lay monk and it's rooted in Japanese Tantric Buddhism. The healing modality is a "side effect") but COVID threw that plan straight out the window. 

 

Someone suggested Yantra Yoga and I'll look into it. Are there any simple Neidan systems that can also help? The simpler and more unified/integrated the better. I don't believe in having too many practices/techniques/meditations. 

 

Actually Theravada Buddhism teaches that its only more likely for a monk to become enlightened than a lay person. There are examples in the Pali Canon of lay people becoming fully enlightened.

 

You're right though I've spent several years immersed in Theravada and no they don't really teach energy work per se, but they do talk about things that happen when meditating that cause the energy to do things.

 

Now while the Pali Canon does teach that lay people can and did become enlightened, Theravada culture became such that the general attitude and what is commonly taught is that if you are a lay person the best you can expect and hope for is to make merit by supporting the Sangha so that in a future life you can be born a male and then become a monk and then attain Nibbana.

 

But generally yes to obtain Jhanna it does require long meditation retreats, so not really conducive to lay people in most circumstances. This is one of the concerns Nichiren had in medieval Japan.

 

The problem with "dry" (as you say) Vippasana retreats is that mindfulness is just one part of an eight fold path. The Buddha didn't teach the one fold path of Vippasana, he taught an eight fold path. There is more to it than just meditation.

 

In the past I would spend hours upon hours doing Anapansatti meditation and it dug up so much crap I thought I was going to loose my marbles. In the last year or so I have become somewhat disillusioned with the Theravada path somewhat and have been doing a lot of reevaluation. 

Edited by dmattwads
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14 hours ago, Oneironaut said:

Does energy cultivation itself bring about or facilitate Buddhist enlightenment?

 

From what I have overheard, I'd say definitely. One teacher said that there's little point in vajrayana deity practice, unless you have mastered kumbhaka, or more precisely, there's always some point, but what he likely meant that there's a profound difference. (That's if I correctly understand kumbhaka categorized as energy cultivation practice.) And there's often a glimpse mention about kundalini, chakras and channels in non-hinayana buddhist teachings.

 

26 minutes ago, Oneironaut said:

The reason I ask is because I feel discouraged after learning from a Theravadin monk that Shakyamuni Buddha said enlightenment is only possible through monastic means and lay people will not reach it.

 

Theravadin business IMHO. Something like vajrayanists saying that enlightenement takes 100 lifetimes of theravadin practice but is possible withing 1 vajrayana practice lifetime.
I'd ask for exact quote from Buddha's talks and then research further, if you are into buddhist philosophy aspect of that. If it's really exact quote fro Shakyamuni Buddha, not just purposefully adjusted, from the little I have grasped, his talks were often circumstantial, ie. what he said applied to a particular situation and not general, that's a point where buddhist scholar might come handy.

 

Quote

The Theravada tradition does not concern itself with energy work or even any kind of yoga and qigong (I'm not a fan of either yoga nor qi gong) so perhaps a good neidan system will be more practical for modern day people.

 

 

I have very recently heard a story about famous vajrayana master, who practiced qigong. And another one has qigong as a workout included with his online course (Tsoknyi Rinpoche).

 

Quote

Someone suggested Yantra Yoga and I'll look into it.

 

Well yeah Yantra Yoga would be natural choice, if one prefers to keep close to the roots (of vajrayana).

Edited by Leif
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Don't be disheartened... enlightenment is not solely Buddhist, and happens all the time, with our without monasteries, energy work, or training of any kind. There is no need to complicate things with worrying about adding other practices if it is Buddhism you are interested in. Buddhism generally pushes to have some balance of vipassana as well as samadhi practice. Which practices have you explored? Be sure to check out simplified the direct path samadhi-centric traditions and practices too. I would pick a tradition, teacher, or practice you are most drawn to and stick with that.

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I would tend to agree with the Theravadin teacher, but add some context. 

 

Shamatha and vipassana as practiced by a certain school of Theravdins (who adhere to "hard jhanas") doesn't make sense outside of the monastic context. I started with Theravada, but it became clear that the most serious adherents were monks. However, the tradition of "hard jhanas" arises out of the Abhidhamma commentaries and is not based in the Suttas (supposedly the original sayings of the Buddha). Nevertheless, most of the Suttas regarding meditation of course are aimed at monks, so I think the position is not without basis. 

 

As a side note, there is some compelling evidence that all or nearly all of modern Theravada meditation techniques were redeveloped only in the 1800's when Westerners came asking, so who knows. Every Buddhist lineage claims their own as the most original, best, direct from the Buddha, so I would take these claims with a grain of salt. 

 

There are other Buddhist approaches that are not grounded in renunciation. For example, there are also Tantric approaches in Buddhism in which one need not give up the world. In fact, some would argue that the Tantric forms were developed for householders specifically. This form of Buddhism you will find in Tibetan forms, but I would argue also in Chan and Zen forms. 

 

 

57 minutes ago, Oneironaut said:

Thanks to everyone for their responses. 

 

The reason I ask is because I feel discouraged after learning from a Theravadin monk that Shakyamuni Buddha said enlightenment is only possible through monastic means and lay people will not reach it. I figured there has to be a more practical means of approaching this. Anapansatti has been my meditation of choice for years now but I've never meditated long enough to reach very strong levels of concentration. I've been told jhanas become accessible through long retreats and cultivating this is impractical or unnecessary while fewer teachers say that "dry" vipassana that has become mainstream is watered down Buddhism. To a degree I'm receiving conflicting messages.  

 

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1 hour ago, dmattwads said:

 

Actually Theravada Buddhism teaches that its only more likely for a monk to become enlightened than a lay person. There are examples in the Pali Canon of lay people becoming fully enlightened.

 

In that case it can almost be considered an exercise in futility. It's like telling someone they have a better chance of winning a lottery by playing compared to those who do not play but have a lesser chance of randomly finding a lost winning ticket. 

 

1 hour ago, dmattwads said:

But generally yes to obtain Jhanna it does require long meditation retreats, so not really conducive to lay people in most circumstances. This is one of the concerns Nichiren had in medieval Japan.

 

Could this be why most zen schools completely drop jhana practice? It's rather ironic because if I'm not mistaken zen means dhyana. 

 

1 hour ago, dmattwads said:

In the past I would spend hours upon hours doing Anapansatti meditation and it dug up so much crap I thought I was going to loose my marbles. In the last year or so I have become somewhat disillusioned with the Theravada path somewhat and have been doing a lot of reevaluation. 

 

You and I both. I thought I was beginning to lose it due to hyper detachment, becoming "numbed out" and emotionless as well as losing my personality. I cut down considerably on practice time and eventually feels like I've hit a road block.  The rinzai way of anapansatti seems more balanced but I can't get the energetics component to "work".

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9 minutes ago, forestofemptiness said:

As a side note, there is some compelling evidence that all or nearly all of modern Theravada meditation techniques were redeveloped only in the 1800's when Westerners came asking, so who knows.

 

Yes I've heard this too that largely before the 19th century with the challenge of Christian missionaries from the west for the most part meditation was rare even for monks in the Theravadan world. Monks would mainly perform ceremonies, recite and copy the texts and were seen as a field of merit. It was with the missionary challenge that the meditation tradition saw a revival.

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15 hours ago, Oneironaut said:

Does energy cultivation itself bring about or facilitate Buddhist enlightenment?

Yes

In Tibetan dzogchen and tantra, energetic practices can facilitate enlightenment in the right practitioner, monastic or secular alike.

 

15 hours ago, Oneironaut said:

 

Would Taoist energy cultivation make Buddhist concepts such as concentration/insight and familiarization with jhana states easier or more accessible?

Maybe, depends on the practitioner.

Each tradition can enhance and inform the other if applied with skill and knowledge. They’re both paradigms that work with the energy body, the physical body, and the mind. Both take you towards your source.

 

 

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6 minutes ago, Oneironaut said:

Could this be why most zen schools completely drop jhana practice? It's rather ironic because if I'm not mistaken zen means dhyana. 

 

Yes I find this very ironic also.

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FWIW, there was great discussion on energy development as it relates to enlightenment (& beyond) by Walker and Freeform in this thread (though keep in mind the various uses of the word enlightenment that already exist within this thread - not all enlightenment discussions are talking about the same thing):

https://www.thedaobums.com/topic/50035-xing-and-ming-cultivation/?do=findComment&comment=916507 

And here:

 

Edit: You might have to speak a little Daoism to understand it though 😬 

Edited by Wilhelm

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1 hour ago, stirling said:

There is no need to complicate things with worrying about adding other practices if it is Buddhism you are interested in. Buddhism generally pushes to have some balance of vipassana as well as samadhi practice. 

 

I'm trying to see if Buddhist teachings can be made more simple,  more applicable, more effective and more accessible for us today without losing the essence and importance of what Shakyamuni Buddha was trying to communicate to us over 2,500 years ago. 

 

To be quite honest I've been more and more aligned with Taoist philosophy as of late as opposed to the seemingly nihilistic undertones prevalent in Theravadin Buddhism. 

 

1 hour ago, stirling said:

Which practices have you explored?

 

Anapanasatti from both the Theravadin and Rinzai Zen tradition has been my main meditation practice. I've also explored joshin kokyu ho. I found it to be very relaxing and very peaceful. No luck with feeling ki unless the slight warmth in the hara and slight magnetism in the hands are my imagination fooling me. 

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11 hours ago, dwai said:

 

Thanks for going through all that.  Very cool!

11 hours ago, dwai said:

 

P.S. If you want to enter the wisdom door...

That's slowly becoming the only thing I want to do anymore 😅

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