Gratitude to my teachers – whose lives unfold as their deepest offering
Qigong — the training of the Qi — is an ancient Chinese practice. It facilitates healing through training the mind to improve the body’s functioning. When my friend Joanna first introduced me to Dr. Chu, the day after my birthday in 1992, I knew nothing about Qi or Qigong. But after just a few lessons, I knew I’d practice Qigong the rest of my life. As I practice Qigong, I enter states of awareness with which my heart intuitively resonates. As I practice Qigong, my subjective experience of life deepens. Whenever I’m stressed, I remember Sifu Chu’s advice: “Practice Qigong. Shift your perceptions.” Through heart-to-heart transmissions, his unconditional love, knowledge, and wisdom teaches me to simply let being be. July 2010, Sifu Chu honored me with an Empowerment Ceremony, authorizing further study of the Tao. Family and friends enjoyed our tea ceremony, a lion dance and a feast of wonderful food. August 2018, he authorized me to teach the Tao. I am so blessed with the depth of the teachings received.
Here’s an exercise Joe taught me.
Three Dan Tian in One – using the mind to direct the qi to target areas
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Keep legs straight but knees relaxed. Breathe deeply into the dan tian (three inches below the navel). Relax hands and arms, keeping them at the sides.
Fill the general dan tian with qi while breathing in. When you breathe out, just relax. Repeat the focus on breathing in and building qi until the general dan tian is full. Then move the qi between the other three dan tians as follows:
First send qi upwards to the middle dan tian, which is located on an imaginary line 1/3 of the distance from the Sea of Qi (one and a half inches below the navel) to the Gate of Life (a point directly across from the navel on the back). Take a few breaths there.
From the middle dan tian, send the qi to the upper dan tian, which is the point of intersection of a horizontal line drawn from between the eyebrows to the back of the head and a vertical line coming downwards from the point on the top of the head where the three bones meet. Again take a few breaths there.
Next send the qi back to the middle dan tian, and lastly down to the lower dan tian, located at the perineum (the region between the anus and the genitals). Again take a few breaths there.
Repeat the exercise, sending the qi up to the middle dan tian, then to the upper one, down to the middle again and to the lower one, again and again. As you get more experienced, just take one breath at each dan tian.
After you are good at moving the qi up and down to the three dan tians, coordinate the moving of the qi with the breathing and also with the movement of the eyes and the tongue, so you do the entire upward/downward sequence with one breath as directed below:
As you bring the qi upward from the perineum, slowly breathe in, raising the eyes upward, and touching the roof of the mouth with the tongue. This helps bring the qi upward. As you lower the qi from the upper dan tian, slowly breathe out, lowering the eyes and lowering the tongue from the roof of the mouth to the floor of the mouth. This helps guide the flow of the qi downward. Repeat these movements, inhaling and exhaling as smoothly and evenly as possible. Eventually the movement of the breath, qi, eyes, and tongue all become completely integrated.
The qi moves upward and downward, through all 3 dan tian, with one breath, inhaling as the qi, tongue, and eyes move upward, and exhaling as the qi, tongue, and eyes move downward.
This exercise may also be done sitting or lying down. Practice for 30 minutes daily, paying attention to the smooth and even movement of the qi through all 3 dan tians, coordinated with the smooth and even movement of the breath, eyes, and tongue.
General Dan Tian: 6 fingers sideways or 3 biological inches below the navel. A biological inch is equal to the length of the middle joint of your middle finger.
Sea of Qi: 3 fingers sideways below the navel or one and half biological inches below the navel.
Gate of Life: Directly across from the navel, between the two kidneys, (on the back). When drawing an imaginary horizontal line to the back on the spine, adjust it down a bit as the tendency is to identify the spot a little too high.
Judith Blackstone is is an innovative, experienced teacher in the contemporary fields of nondual realization and spiritual, relational and somatic psychotherapy. She developed the Realization Process, a direct path for realizing fundamental (nondual) consciousness, as well as the application of nondual realization for psychological, relational and physical healing. Her sensitivity to the subtle emanations from all living forms astounds, comforts and inspires me. I am also moved by her compassionate wisdom and skill in guiding each person’s natural unwinding of the body, heart and mind toward openness, towards realization. When we first met at Esalen in December 2007, I knew immediately that I wanted to study extensively with her. Her subtle precise nondual practices heal people psychologically, relationally and physically. Shifting from the fragmentation of subject-object duality to the unity of our essential being seems radical, but it’s possible. We can realize our own nature as vast, clear, unchanging, unbounded space. A Senior Realization Process teacher since 2018, I am deeply blessed, humbled and honored to share Judith’s work with others.
Judith describes Realization Process clearly in her beautifully-written books (see below) and in her workshops and trainings – and in the following excerpt from one of her blogs.
Realization Process is an integrated approach to psychological healing, embodiment, and spiritual awakening. It is a unique series of body-centered meditative exercises for realizing nonduality, releasing somatically-bound psychological patterns, and awakening the clear light of unified consciousness in the whole body.
In Realization Process, the radical openness of nondual realization is based on deep contact with the internal space of one’s body and access to the wisdom channel in the subtle core of the body. We therefore uncover a qualitative, authentic experience of ourselves as individuals at the same time as we transcend our individuality. When two people attune to nondual awareness together, they experience mutual transparency: a single expanse of awareness pervading them both as a unity. They also experience resonant connection between the essential aspects of their being, such as intelligence, love, and physical sensation.
Most approaches to nonduality focus on breaking through fixed conceptual patterns. However, the fixations that obscure nonduality are not just conceptual. There are also rigid holding patterns throughout one’s body, limiting our capacity for emotional responsiveness and physical sensation. The subtle core of the body is disentangled from these rigidities. When we access it, we can let go of our fixed patterns of self and other, so that they actually dissolve. Then we are open to the present moment, effortlessly, throughout our whole body.
The realization of nonduality makes life more vibrant, more impactful and often more pleasurable. By uncovering our fundamental nondual nature, we become authentic human beings, transparent and present at the same time.
When my friend Shih-In Ma and I first opened the door to the Fireside Room of Unity Church in Palo Alto in the winter of 1998, we entered the forcefield of Adyashanti’s presence. Adyashanti’s invitation . . . to “awaken to the truth, the deep realization of who you are as an experience.” Adyashanti manifests what he teaches — radical emptiness . . . everything arising spontaneously. We both sensed Adyashanti lives in the flow of the Tao. Over the years I’ve attended retreats and satsangs and also taken online classes with Adyashanti.
Several years ago several of us formed a study group and engaged in a four-year study of his writings. First, we studied his book The Way of Liberation, in which he shares these words of wisdom about abiding in the silence of being:
True meditation has no direction or goal. It is pure wordless surrender, pure silent prayer. All methods aiming at achieving a certain state of mind are limited, impermanent, and conditioned. Fascination with states leads only to bondage and dependency. True meditation is abidance as primordial awareness.
True meditation appears in consciousness spontaneously when awareness is not being manipulated or controlled. When you first start to meditate, you notice that attention is often being held captive by focus on some object: on thoughts, bodily sensations, emotions, memories, sounds, etc. This is because the mind is conditioned to focus and contract upon objects. Then the mind compulsively interprets and tries to control what it is aware of (the object) in a mechanical and distorted way. It begins to draw conclusions and make assumptions according to past conditioning.
In true meditation all objects (thoughts, feelings, emotions, memories, etc.) are left to their natural functioning. This means that no effort should be made to focus on, manipulate, control, or suppress any object of awareness. In true meditation the emphasis is on being awareness; not on being aware of objects, but on resting as primordial awareness itself. Primordial awareness is the source in which all objects arise and subside.
As you gently relax into awareness, into listening, the mind’s compulsive contraction around objects will fade. Silence of being will come more clearly into consciousness as a welcoming to rest and abide. An attitude of open receptivity, free of any goal or anticipation, will facilitate the presence of silence and stillness to be revealed as your natural condition.
As you rest into stillness more profoundly, awareness becomes free of the mind’s compulsive control, contractions, and identifications. Awareness naturally returns to its non-state of absolute unmanifest potential, the silent abyss beyond all knowing.
Sally Kempton is so wise, so skillful, so warmly and compassionately human! Her heart-to-heart transmissions have helped heal and open my heart immeasurably. I’ve only met her once in person, at the Global Integral Spiritual Experience Conference at Asilomar December 2009. Sally stood on the podium just in front of me in Merrill Hall, looking out at 500 people from 30 countries. Then she invited us into a process of inner exploration of our natural state of wisdom and love. Ninety minutes passed timelessly. I felt blessed at the very deepest levels. After returning home from the conference, I immediately signed up for her online courses. I’ve now taken a dozen, and found them most amazing. They support deep inquiries which integrate heart, mind and body. They’re so valuable I’ve downloaded and replayed them again and again. She’s also a wonderful writer.
I selected the excerpts below from her online article Practicing Enlightenment because I value her practical guidance in leading an awakened life.
If you want to begin practicing to experience your own natural enlightened self, three factors are especially important.
Motivation: the understanding that being enlightened would make you feel about 10,000 times better than you do now, and that rather than waiting for it to strike like lightening, there would be immediate and long term benefit in practicing. Therefore it’s worth putting effort into.
Faith: The recognition that you actually have enlightenment inside you.
Effort: The willingness to keep trying to hold an enlightened viewpoint, as well as some time-tested practices that help shift your awareness into an enlightenment-friendly state.
A Single Awareness:
Sit quietly, and align your attention with the breath. Let yourself become centered and quiet. Begin to become aware of that part of you that is aware, that is conscious. Something in you knows that you are alive, that you are breathing, that you are thinking. It is subtle and hidden, but that witnessing part of you is the basis of everything you experience.
Now bring to mind someone that you feel close to. Have the thought, “The same consciousness, the same sentiency that powers my life, is also in that other person. With all our differences of personality and history, we both share consciousness. At the most fundamental level, the level of awareness, we are one.” If that seems too abstract, you might think, “Like me, this person seeks happiness. This person too feels pain.” But the more you can identify yourself with awareness, and recognize the awareness in the other person, the more deeply you will feel your kinship.
Now bring to mind someone you feel neutral about, and have the same recognition, that there is one consciousness in both of you.
Finally, bring to mind someone you dislike, perhaps a personal “enemy,” or a public figure you hold in low esteem. Remind yourself, “Different as we may be, the same consciousness dwells in that person as in me. On the level of awareness, we are one.”
A Single Energy:
On the quantum level, the level of subatomic particles, everything you see and feel is part of one great energy soup. One single energy flows through everything in this universe. With that in mind, look around and say to yourself, “All that I see, all that I touch, all that I imagine, is at bottom made of one single conscious energy. The page, the cat on the bed, my brain, are all made of this single consciousness.”
Questions will come up–and they are questions worth exploring. However, there is great power in simply holding this thought, “All this is one consciousness” as a mantra, and then trying to “see” the world that way. Notice how the thought of oneness softens the edges of your judging mind, how it eases feelings of frustration, anxiety, and fear. Notice how it tends to bring up feelings of peace.
I was blessed to attend a week-end retreat at Esalen with Russell Delman in August 2010. By Saturday afternoon that week-end, I knew I wanted to commit to his three-year Embodied Life Mentorship Program. Our wonderful cohort completed our journey together in March 2013, and I’m so grateful about the depth of our shared experiences. What’s unique about the Embodied Life School is Russell’s integrated approach to teaching meditation, Feldenkrais, and inquiry. I love the combination — and deeply value Russell’s skill and his compassionate presence.
I also value Russell’s emphasis on sensing connectedness with ourselves and others as a natural condition for peace.
Feeling connected to life is the basis for deep peace. When human beings sense connectedness with themselves and others, peace is the natural condition.
Sitting can create a sense of deep connectedness to life. As one drops deeper into the silence, an unexpected inner movement occurs. Deeper than the thoughts, feelings and sensations that are constantly changing is a quality of presence that is continuous.
Perhaps you can feel it, if you pause and sense What is the deepest sense of life I can know right now? Beneath the thoughts and usual sensations – What is IT?
When sitting, moments will arise when one experiences the subtlest sense of being alive – the sense of Being. For at least a few seconds we sense our connection to all of life. This is the most nourishing place I know.
There is always a pre-verbal pulse of life that can be sensed. It is both personal and completely impersonal. It is life itself pulsing through us. We can feel it. One knows oneself as part of All. At first this happens for brief seconds or even fractions of a second. Consistent sitting can connect you in a direct way to the totality of life. You feel at home in this universe, never separate. From this connectedness an implicit caring for the world arises.
A group of dedicated meditators met at my home weekly for over a decade. We meditated, read about Buddhism, and practiced what we were studying. When we discovered Phillip Moffitt‘s writings, we read several of his articles and then his books. The following excerpts from his first book, Dancing with Life: Buddhist Insights for Finding Meaning and Joy in the Face of Suffering, articulate the changes that occur as one’s commitment to a daily spiritual practice deepens.
Your inner development progresses according to three major stages of awareness that are beyond the ordinary stage of awareness where most people live their lives. In moving from ordinary awareness to the first stage, you transform your ego structure; in attaining the second stage, you transcend your ego identity; and in the full realization of the final stage, you become transparent to ordinary reality, which is equivalent to reaching nibbana.
Stage One – Transforming the Ego
You are beginning from the ordinary stage of awareness—you have your good moments, but mostly you are inclined toward clinging and contraction. Therefore, becoming mindful of yourself is your first act of practice. Slowly, you begin to see yourself more clearly and to act more skillfully and to give attention and priority to your inner life. At first your inner changes simply mean that you are becoming psychologically or emotionally healthier. Being emotionally healthier is good in and of itself, and it greatly facilitates your movement toward freedom. When you have a healthy ego, you are able to work more easily with the various mind states that arise. What are at first just small shifts in your thinking and behavior gradually and cumulatively amount to substantial changes in how your mind is organized, and you enter a new stage of development. You realize that your suffering is the result of the way you are, not the way the world is. This direct knowing transforms you within your ego structure.
Stage Two – Transcending the Ego
Once you reach the ego transformation stage of awareness, you feel a sense of ease with life and selflessness that makes you more available to others. You continue to be organized around your ego, but the ego’s identity is transformed, therefore, much of its focus is on wholesome behavior and serving others. You are not suddenly a perfect person; you still have your quirks and shortcomings, but you are no longer thinking, speaking, or acting in ways that are likely to cause harm to yourself or others. In relating to life, you spontaneously and consistently respond to what is called for, and you do so from a sense of being part of the mystery of the unfolding of your life, rather than from your ego. You have not become someone new—you have become more your true nature. Said another way, you have shed something that was stifling or imprisoning you, which was your identification with the ego self as a fixed entity. Your ego still exists, but it is no longer the center of your being. You have many more moments when your mind is at ease with whatever conditions are arising, regardless of whether they are pleasant or unpleasant.
Stage Three – Transparency
The third stage of awareness, when your mind becomes transparent to ordinary reality, represents the total realization of cessation. You are resting in the absolute and have become a direct part of the mystery that illuminates all of ordinary reality. You have achieved the deathless. You experience all the moments of your experience as equal and meet them with tranquility and compassion. Total cessation is directly experienced through the realization of anatta, or “not-self,” and sunnata, or emptiness. All your sense experiences are empty of self-reference, your mind in meditation is empty of grasping, and your mind is empty of any hindrances to your investigations. Gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, Bodhi svaha. The full realization of cessation results in a fundamental change in consciousness to pure awareness, and the realization of emptiness that transcends the ego personality. Your being is essentially reorganized. You are transparent to the delusion of ordinary reality. You are in nibbana. Because your mind has awakened and become transparent to this pure awareness, it is now part of that great impersonal illuminating source for all life.
Years ago, when contemplating my upcoming retirement after teaching high school 34 years, I wondered how my life would change. My primary outside interest for a couple decades had been attending meditation retreats. Rob, a friend, suggested to me that perhaps I’d want to study dharma full-time. His comment led me to think more seriously about becoming a meditation teacher. I researched meditation teacher training online, and that’s what led me to Peter Fenner. First I read his book Radiant Mind, and then I met him in person at a Sunday afternoon workshop at the East West Bookstore in downtown Mountain View, California. Peter had been a celibate monk in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition for nine years. He also has a PhD. in the philosophical psychology of Mahayana Buddhism. I knew he was knowledgeable. That afternoon his presence mesmerized me. I signed up for his ten-month Nondual Teacher/Therapist Training course, in which we practiced delivering pure nondual contentless transmission in an interactive group setting.
The following excerpts from a July 2006 talk at the Omega Institute reveal Peter’s refined, smooth, minimalistic and very efficient transmission of pure consciousness.
My understanding of being, in the way that it’s understood in eastern traditions like Buddhism and Hinduism, is that being doesn’t exclude anything, because it’s unconditioned. If, in order to be, we have to, for example, be still, or be silent, or be meditating, then that would be a conditioned way of being. Whereas we’re exploring unconditioned being.
So there’s no condition, there’s nothing that stops us being. This kind of being is such that we can’t actually stop it happening, as though it is ever-present. It’s like we can tune into it, and it’s there. It’s not there in the sense that it’s located somewhere, but it’s ever-present. And if we’re beginning to taste this space, to feel our way into this, we can feel that it’s really quite interesting, quite amazing. Because it’s a state that we can have individually, but which has nothing to do with us as an individual.
It’s not ours, it’s not like something we can own. We can participate in it, we can join it, we can enjoy it, we can be suffused by it, we can live in, but it has nothing to do with us as an individual. This is why it is sometimes spoken about as pure consciousness, or universal consciousness. So if we’re tuning into this, we’re tuning into the same space.
From my point of view, we’re doing it now, tapping into a possibility, a potentiality, that’s there all the time. We’re just undoing things, in a way, so we can tune in together to the unconditioned dimension of being, at the same time that we’re connected with ourselves in a very ordinary way. It’s not as though we have to transform ourselves radically in order to participate in this space. In fact, we don’t have to change anything. For me, it’s an experience that runs in parallel with the experience of being human in the way that I am. So I can know it through who I am, and you can know it through who you are.
It’s simply awareness in contrast to what we’re aware of, like the objects of awareness. The main thing to appreciate about the experience is that when we connect with it, there’s nothing more that we need. In a fundamental way, everything we do is designed to bring us to a point where there’s nothing more we have to do—we’re complete. And it’s possible for us to taste that now, to be that.