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feedback A Reminder: Sensations Do Not Indicate Progress

Good constructive feedback helps us all get forward when it's directly given to the right people, although sometimes feedback might be of more indirect and anecdotal type. Unhelpful initiatives are unlikely to garner attention or support.

Energetic conflict(s):      None. Only usual carefulness is asked.

Precaution(s):     
  1. Forging ahead with Enthusiasm (ambitious and competitive spirit creates agitation)
  2. Forceful Approach (manipulating energy and seeking intense experiences commonly lead to harm)

Discussion premise:      Universal Wisdom (including the common sense of relative wisdom)

Roots of Virtue

At Your Service
Staff member
Moderator
What I should have said instead is if the sensations don't indicate progress, then what does?

If it was entirely clear and easy how to measure progress internally and externally, then we would already have foolproof troubleshooting guides as inheritance from the accomplished masters and everybody would practically know and recognize when to avoid fraudulent and deviated practitioners. We are not so lucky.

Measures of progress are unique to the type of Neigong practiced just as I referred earlier. For example, the Flying Phoenix Qigong begins its effects on the subtle nerve level, which leads to quick access to blissful states of consciousness as an indication of good work. Internal martial artists would typically transform their more superficial physical tissues before the nerve level is approached properly. Taijiquan and many Neigong styles act through various layers of the energy-body first and then later approach both the superficial and deeper physical tissues, and alchemical Neigong belongs to this same variation essentially although there can be meaningful differences. All these tracks are long work on their own until they converge, and there often are individual complications caused by health and karmic issues that make the way slower or more untypical.

If we take the Buddhist wisdom meditation traditions into account, then it again offers a completely different view how to develop one's internal skill by piercing through the layers of self-grasping at the mind level.

My view is that it's best to observe the state of the heart for clues about how one's practice is going. Altruistic ethics and the lack of self-concern are good indications generally that the person has a good heart. Emotional and mental stability is often heavily correlating with these. I would also add that insight about the state of base drives — fear, lust, and anger — is good for assessing how well the practitioner has sublimated or mastered these impulses.

In a general sense, we could say that the inner development reflects a gradual refinement of grounding, rooting, and spirituality. In contrast to whatever people have going on in terms of spiritual experiences and energetic buzz, it's more indicative of the holistic well-being and progress to see how well they are incorporating the practical and philosophical aspects of grounding and rooting. If these are lacking, then the presumable spiritual progress likely is shallow or somehow deviant. So, I would say that how well people perfect their foundations is the best indication of progress, regardless of what and how they train.
 
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One Finger Chan

Practitioner
Tutor
All of this is from the perspective of the tradition I follow, and might differ from how other traditions do things (cool for them).

I believe that the most unusable thing I have done was when I tried to get my LDT to become really hot. That didn't take much time, but did only lead to a situation where the heat tried to move to the kidneys. I dropped that (which wasn't a part of my tradition), and by focusing on what I was supposed to do I managed to move on to the next stage.

The second most unusable thing I have done was trying to activate the MCO Chia style, way back in the last milennia. Didn't do me much good either, but made me focus on the wrong things. The sexual practices twisted my mind a bit, took me a couple of years with my whife to release that.
 
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Neirong

Magus
Teacher
Something that might feel crazy intense (like the rushing of the waterwheel or the engine hum of the LDT) - might even keep you awake... but after a while it’ll normalise and not take up your attention to the same extent and it’ll feel quite normal.

Yeah, it is the same way as when a person wears a T-Shirt, eventually, he forgets and loses the feeling of it. As we are used to wearing t-shirts, it happens rather quickly. You do feel it rather well when you equip it, but then it is just clothing and it gets out of attention. This does not mean it vanishes or no longer exists. :D
 
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Neirong

Magus
Teacher
What I should have said instead is if the sensations don't indicate progress, then what does?
It is really hard to evaluate and judge someone's progress. It really depends on a system - training, and what the teacher expects from students in a given stage of training. Criteria and milestones can vary a lot, as the internal training itself can cover many different things.

Abilities and skills are the signs of progress but they do not indicate progress itself, as a person might develop for a long while without having a particular ability manifest itself, or he might have a particular ability but not be developing at all.

Like saying that someone is not having any progress because he cannot light a napkin on fire is a lie.
And saying someone is progressing in cultivation a lot because he can do some telekinesis is also a lie.

As for sensations themselves, they can be quite misleading and I have seen a lot of people, who strain their necks and feel a lot of power in their heads as a result. Restricting blood flow or restricting breathing can lead to more powerful sensations, but not necessarily any meaningful progress in cultivation.
 
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bogdan

Student
Abilities and skills are the signs of progress but they do not indicate progress itself, as a person might develop for a long while without having a particular ability manifest itself, or he might have a particular ability but not be developing at all.
The first part makes sense to me, abilities and skills are the signs of progress, but then you say that they don't indicate progress itself. Then what indicates progress itself in cultivation if not the development of various skills and abilities combined with character improvement?
For the last part, ok a person might develop for a long while without having a particular ability manifest itself, but if they are developing properly something must manifest internally right? Because some people might say that they're making progress although they have nothing to show for it, either internally or externally. Can that happen?
 

Neirong

Magus
Teacher
The first part makes sense to me, abilities and skills are the signs of progress, but then you say that they don't indicate progress itself. Then what indicates progress itself in cultivation if not the development of various skills and abilities combined with character improvement?
For the last part, ok a person might develop for a long while without having a particular ability manifest itself, but if they are developing properly something must manifest internally right? Because some people might say that they're making progress although they have nothing to show for it, either internally or externally. Can that happen?

Because it is not simple, and you may not be able to judge whether you are developing or not, much less whenever other people are developing or not. It is like a 3Dimensional being trying to evaluate a 22Dimensional reality. It is just beyond our grasp and understanding. I see a lot of people lately who believe that if they do Stretches, Stand in ZZ and meditate on Lower DanTien 3-5-10-15 years, or do questionable "alchemy" practices, that they will become immortal/ascended/transcend everything, and I have yet to see even a micro-nano ounce of evidence it goes that way. Despite those practices being beneficial in many schools when done correctly. It is just a bunch of fake promises and not what is written on the tin.

Some people think and observe changes that they develop, but it is all a delusional bubble of self-identity, as they live inside of the bubble, everything they feel is quite real, for them. Went to a seminar - trained 2152+ hours - felt gratification - I am more developed (self-thought). I met way too many of those who had 20+ years of training under the belt and were stuck in development completely, living a life of a Groundhog Day. Just because you train does not mean you are developing or growing, in many cases what actually is happening is you are ageing and coming close to death.

If self-development lies outside of your level of understanding, believing that you can judge it with your ego/mind is rather naive.

Developing a particular ability internally or not is not a sign of spiritual development at all, as growing muscles in the gym is not a sign of spiritual development. Some people grow those muscles inside their body or develop fascia, but it does not mean they are more or less spiritually developed than people going to the gym and doing normal bodybuilding. Alternative MA so often becomes a destructive cult due to that very reason, of feeling special, cause they develop different skillset/power than traditional arts, and feel very special/good about themselves. Adam Mizner or Damo Mitchell might be decent in Tai Chi, but they will not last 2 seconds in a fight with real MMA / Kickboxing or Muay Thai master. That is just a reality, and misleading bamboozlement is saying otherwise, and looking down on people who actually fight competitively.

For myself, I do build an opinion of people's development, after observing how they talk and how they think and interact with reality, I knew some members of this forum for 3-5 years already and it pleases me to see that they don't remain the same, and change and it is observable difference through the posts/articles/messages, but it is only an opinion, it is a reference point and nothing else.
And some other methods are used in teaching to evaluate students' progress but it is all relative to the system and practices being taught.

----

Let me give you a view from another angle. Self Development is the development of Self. But humans die, as they die their self is getting destroyed and is lost. To be able to do self-development you have to be able to deal with this issue first. Things that would count as real progress in self-development, are things that will not burn away or get lost upon inevitable death.

Should we really care about some people spending 25 years to burn a napkin if they gonna die in the end and restart again in the next life from scratch?
John Chang impressed many people in the west, but that is just as meaningless as everything else. It actually brought so many people away from development, and into a cult of "look this is real ability" burning napkins and jolting with static electricity. Everything else is fake.

I might have said too much already but one thing that ticks me off the most is people who are certain in their path of development. The certainty, confidence, and blind faith, are very much the opposite of what I would be looking for in my own students.
 
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Roots of Virtue

At Your Service
Staff member
Moderator
If we take the Buddhist wisdom meditation traditions into account, then it again offers a completely different view how to develop one's internal skill by piercing through the layers of self-grasping at the mind level.

The Buddhist tradition has developed different schemes to measure the purification of mind. The most foundational of them might be the elaboration of five skandhas (meaning "heaps, aggregates, collections, groupings"). It provides a very quick overview why grasping at sensations is very base and completely against all higher attainments.

Let's make a practical study with examples. What happens when the aspiring yogi keeps attaching himself to...

  • form skandha? It often leads to strictly adhering to physical form as being the very essence, hence leading to silly ideas like calling balancing on suspended planks as standing meditation.
  • sensation skandha? It often leads to thinking that certain experiences are much superior than others, whether it's chilling out in a spaced out feeling or powerful energetic buzzing.
  • conception skandha? It often leads to ego trips and conceptual self-grasping.
  • volition skandha? It often leads to blindly following through with the unceasing desire to procreate. All types of subtle unrest and physiological jerk responses belong to the same current.

Sometimes we may see people who think aloud that they are high in the consciousness skandha cultivation, but they are without exception in some warped aspect of sensation skandha in actuality. In other words, the deluded novice yogis attach themselves to the absence of certain sensations and the feeling of penetrating spacious expanse. A truly resting mind would experience natural non-preference to all sensations and feelings, thus considering nothing in terms of dualistic concepts such as pure or impure, spacious or constricted. In the enlightened mind, as far as I understand, there is no high nor low, but awareness and amazement of how experiential instances feel even if they would be highly repulsive to the ordinary mind. So, to crudely paraphrase an amusing Bön Buddhist anecdote: If the loudmouth "non-dualist" (read: neo-Advaita in our time) yogi doesn't consider beer mixed with feces as equal to any ordinary beer, then he's just posturing.

Don't let sensations deceive you: they are among the first things that you should purify and let just be. You would at most accomplish limited medical benefits when cultivating enjoyable sensations intentionally. The real cultivation work starts with accessing the work on conception skandha, i.e. attaining the stream entry or the first dhyana meditative trance — and by this latter criterion I mean the traditional highly difficult feat and not the "soft dhyanas" which with the ignorant Western yogis may dabble.
 
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