Muay Thai Fighting. Today during a rather strenuous Muay Thai session I noticed something that was very similar to a feature of; Deep Meditation, Breathwork, and Tantric Yoga. At a certain point, there’s a deep feeling that comes up that we don’t like, and the mind does everything it can to avoid it. The Buddha described avoiding this feeling as the basis for all Dhukka or suffering in the world.
Muay Thai classes – An Intense Training
During the fight class today we engaged in a very intense, no-stopping conditioning training. We were jumping, kicking, punching, jacks, burpees, more kicking, kneeing, elbowing. By the end of an hour of no breaks, the body felt like it was almost falling apart. This is when things got interesting.
The pattern I noticed was that a certain feeling would build up in the body, then in a flash it would stop moving. I started to pay attention to the flash, and further noticed that the mind was ‘checking out’. Either a thought or something else would pop into awareness, and the body would fade into the background. This is the point where the body, clearly preferring not moving, decided to stop moving.
I decided to bring my awareness deeper into this process and watched what happened just before the check out. There was this feeling, not really pain, but more of a discontent with what “is”, that was arising and growing. At a certain point, the mind was lost and the body would go into “default mode” where it just rested.
Awareness vs Default Mode
This reminded me of other times in deep meditation where I’d been doing a lot of work, over a long time. For example, at a 10-day retreat. After deconstructing the ego for days on end. Where you would get through the surface level discomfort, the anxiety, the desire to be elsewhere, the sleepiness, and doubt… Eventually, you’d drop into a vast empty place that was quite pleasant. If we continue past that joyful pleasant place, we can get to a very scary, dark space where there is literally nothing, except this idea that to let go here is to die. Calling it an idea isn’t really doing it justice though. It’s more of a visceral feeling of “I’m going to die”.
For those who don’t have 10 days to burn on deep work, I’ve found that Breathwork can fast-track us into that space where we feel this deep hedonic feeling of death. I remember the first time I encountered it during breathwork. First, you have to deal with a lot of the mind running away from the sensations in the body.
Getting caught in thought again. Bring it back to the breath over and over, and episode by episode we dig deeper. Traumas and memories stored in the body come up, and one by one we accept them and resolve them. I went deep enough to uncover birth trauma, and then even a memory of death.
Deep Hedonic Feeling of Death
When I saw it, and finally went through it, I realized it was ok to die. Then, I saw so clearly how; Literally, EVERYTHING that we do is layered on top of avoiding this feeling of death. Like there isn’t a single thought, feeling, or emotion that isn’t rooted in this fear at its core. All of our activities are an unconscious effort of avoiding this feeling. This insight was exceptionally revealing for me, in a way that simply cannot be explained… It really can only be experienced.
When this feeling started to come up in breathwork, I was lucky enough to recognize it. It was in this recognition that I began to consciously working with it – knowing that this is a tremendous opportunity. I started attempting to keep my mind from running away from the feelings in the body, and trying to get curious about what the feelings ACTUALLY felt like. Because it ran away so FAST that I couldn’t remember the actual sensation, just a memory of “bad”.
Just a Memory of “BAD”
At these points, you really cannot trust your own memory, impulses, or reactions. This is when you really need to rely on wisdom passed down from teachers; Your training, and whatever energy you can conjure up at the moment. By a coincidence, I started grunting a bit with the effort to hold my mind in the body during the training. This had the effect of tightening my Dantean, or Hara, or Sacral center. I felt energy shoot up from below into my brain, and was able to hold it in the body a little bit longer.
In this instant, all my tantric, and past martial arts training as a child flashed into my mind. I realized that the body was using so much energy that none was making it to the brain, and thus the willpower was limited. In Buddhist Tantra, there are certain (Secret) breathing techniques that we can use to generate a very strong and balanced mind. This mind can be used to seek wisdom and insight. In this instant, that is literally what I was trying to do – determine what this feeling was that I was running away from constantly.
Secret Breathing Techniques in Buddhist Tantra
The breathing techniques have a way of pumping the cerebral spinal fluid into the brain, and increasing the flow which increases the energy and willpower. Willpower is required to do magick, as well as maintain awareness. Our awareness is subject to willpower, more than we think. In fact one of the awareness trainings I’ve done in the past is letting go of being “awake” and letting the mind fall asleep while trying to tune into the SINE wave of the willpower instead.
“I began experimenting with different breathing during the training, and found that some very forceful exhales timed with the movements began to have the same effect of pumping the cerebral spinal fluid into the brain (I can feel it, most people without training cannot).”
This literally amped up my willpower, my awareness, the brightness of the world around me. And, I was able to use it to inspect the feeling that the mind was running away from.
A Trigger that the Body Uses to Control the Mind?
This was the same feeling, a feeling of death. But the difference here was that there was nothing really going on other than the body running out of energy, and trying to get me to stop moving it. How interesting!?!? Is this perhaps a trigger that the body uses to control the mind? Is there a way to become free of this tether? Can one become free of the fear of death?
Another nice side effect of this practice was that it unlocked another entire bank of energy, seemingly unlimited in that moment. The movements came back, the mind was alert, and the body was complying with the instructions that it was being given.
What IS that hedonic feeling? I still can’t really put my fingers on it, other than the mind is really really avoidant to it. Have you experienced anything like this?
Cian Kenshin – The Executive Alchemist