Energized Mudra for Concentration Meditation

I have been playing around with the following tech recently with great success and I am hoping it will help you reach the next level in samatha practice.

It involves introducing an energy current via a mudra (hand pose) which helps stabilize the breath and provides an additional non-thought object so there is really no space left in the mind for thoughts. This energy current eventually merges into the breath producing a single highly coherent energized breath object (which is what samatha is supposed to produce anyway).

  1. While sitting, make the dhyana mudra:

  2. Place the tips of your thumbs together very gently, and simultaneously try to pull them apart very gently while keeping them together. The simultaneous impulses to both push together and pull apart are performed very gently and continuously. The result is that the thumbs will not move at all. However, the two competing impulses produce a very stable yet subtle energy current up the spine which you should be able to perceive after a short time. This energy current is also very equanimous and has a calming effect in and of itself.

  3. Practise this mindfully until it becomes a learned habit. This should only take a couple of minutes as it is very easy. Now, continue doing it while maintaining concentration on the breath. Now, give yourself to the breath – the energy current will stabilize attention on the breath.

This, I believe, is one of the original purposes of this mudra, and why it is the standard mudra in Buddhist concentration practice. It should be performed as an enhancement to your existing concentration practice.

One thing I am trying to do is to bring back things from yoga such as poses, energy practices, and some subtle breath control, that were present in Buddhism but somehow got lost when this stuff got brought over to the West. In many cases these simple practices are the difference between absorption and spinning your wheels for years.

One other fascinating and absolutely useful thing I discovered from practising this mudra technique for a couple of weeks is that it becomes a psychological anchor for calmness, in the style of associative conditioning as described in modern Western psychology and utilized in practices such as NLP and hypnosis.

One thing I have been doing diligently for the last several months is to begin conditioning ongoing clarity both on and off the cushion, rather than chasing states of bliss or rapture. I will explain the backstory for that in another post. The short version is that I became increasingly frustrated by the temporary nature of bliss states and instead made a firm decision to experience clear-seeing regardless of emotional state in any given situation. While out in a noisy shopping centre at the weekend I felt myself losing this clarity due to the distractions and just instinctively touched my thumb and forefinger tips together on both hands. This fired the anchor trained by the mudra during sitting practice and led to immediate profound stillness and mental quiet, to a degree which I have never experienced before in such a noisy environment. This was an unexpected and very encouraging response which prompted me to share the technique with you.

Let me know how it goes.

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14 Responses

  1. Edenist Whackjob says:

    You really should write a “spell-caster’s manual” that ties together all this stuff. Meditation, “kinesthetic”, hand-signals, magick, etc. Use a funky AD&D cover for the book or something 🙂

  2. Pat says:

    I’ve tried this out a little over the past two days, and I have to say it’s definitely legit and if you practice concentration meditation at all, you should give it a shot. I can regularly get jhana states, but not particularly deep ones (I’m guessing they are mostly just 1st jhana, 2nd jhana at most.) Within the past few weeks, I was feeling particularly frustrated with a few aspects of life, and decided to channel my negative emotions into a concentration meditation session. The anger and frustration I was feeling at the time helped me reach the deepest state I have ever achieved, with all these visuals of colorful spinning wheels. I also experienced some weird bodily sensations, namely the feeling that there was a large buildup of energy in the lowest part of my abdomen. I think that I was able to reach this state because I was determined not to allow anything to break my concentration, which is generally a problem for me, as I lose focus on the object of the meditation once I have reached a good state, preventing me from reaching deeper states.

    As soon as I tried the mudra, I experienced the same feeling of energy building up in the lowest part of my abdomen, along with the sensation Illuminatus described of energy running up your spine. I also noticed that I was automatically paying attention to my breath without intending to, as if the mudra itself caused me to automatically start concentration meditation. Since I was under the impression that in order to use this mudra for meditation you had to be sitting and I generally meditate lying on a couch, I did not hold the mudra during the meditation session (Illuminatus later told me via email that it is ok to meditate with this mudra while sitting down.)

    Even though I didnt hold the mudra at any point during this meditation session, the fact that I had played around with it a little beforehand seemed to have a definite positive effect on the quality of meditation, as if it had built up energy that stuck with me afterwards and helped me to stay on course for the entire meditation session without losing focus and getting distracted. I only stopped once I remembered I had to go do somthing, I generally stop when I get bored. I felt as though if I wanted to, I could have easily kept going with no problem staying focused. Today, I tried meditating while holding the mudra the whole time, and I was able to achieve a state close to the state I reached a few weeks ago with visuals of spinning wheels (again, I only stopped once I realized I had to go attend to something.) I will definitely be using this mudra in my meditation practice now, and I hope to use it to help achieve deeper states than I have ever experienced.

  3. Aldous says:

    This mudras has been a part of my practice on and off over the years, depending on my mood/who I’m reading/what I’m practicing. Did it last night (and again just now) but with more ‘force’ ala Illuminates instructions. It’s like a fast lane to concentration (I’m no concentration slouch so can’t garantee this effect for newbies) – mind silent almost instantly, nice upward flow, breath coming into sharp focus…usual effects but much quicker. I’ve not ridden it to Jhana yet as its late and I need to sleep tonight and could feel it turning my circuits on.
    I have a small addition for those that want to play with it – in addition to the mudra, gently ‘push’ the elbows away from the body. Not far, just enough for a small rotation in the arms (incredibly small – more of a feel thing). This heightened the felt sense of upward flow for me.

    • Pat says:

      I definitely experienced something similar to your description of how the mudra is like a “fast lane to concentration.” Using it seems to make it so that keeping your attention fixed on the breath requires next to no effort.

  4. Monk Bro says:

    Thought I’d share something that I think is really important for those who seem to not make any progress in meditation and are not reaching any particularly pleasant states even though they follow the instructions on focusing on the breath very well. Your posture -it’s extremely important. It’s been said here a lot and illuminatus has been saying it over and over. I tend to disregard information if I don’t think it’s important myself, I overlooked this aspect for way too long.
    You cannot reliably reach pleseant states without a straight spine. It needs to be straight and support its own “straightness” with energy traveling upwards. If your breath watching, kasina staring, or whatever it is that your practicing right now isn’t going anywhere and you know you have a slight slouch or your head feels heavy or you’re just plain uncomfortable sitting in a meditation posture, then the problem is to be adressed by making your spine completely straight, all the way from the lower back up to the top of the spine.
    So, what I recommend you to do is to change your meditation to simply sit with your legs crossed and keep your spine straight with the head slightly turned upwards. Your meditation should move between open relaxed awereness(that’s a true meditative state, completely relaxed and with no worries of anything, not even some meditation object) and making sure you’re sitting completely straight. Simply sitting like this might take effort, you will probably have to tense some muscles, this is fine. Get as tense as you have to, just keep the spine straight. If you start getting really tense, that’s fine, just stay aware of the body. The upward energy flow gained from sitting with a straight spine will break tension.
    The thing is that you won’t get anywhere in meditation unless you have a straight spine so doing anything else is going to be quite ineffective until you have got a straight spine. In yoga (what I’ve heard from Sadhguru) you start with the body, then you move on to the breath, then mind, then self. In that order. I’m beginning to understand why.
    I noticed my breath changed a lot for the better after some time sitting with a straight spine. I stopped breathing completely for 10-15 seconds at a time sometimes with little outbreath-pushes every now and then. My breathing sometimes resembled khapabhati pranayam. I used to breath wrong because of my slouch. Now I always remember that sucking in air is terrible and should never be done, that inbreath should happen by itself after an outbreath. The sucking is the bad part. Air should just fill you up, no breathing really happening. And the outbreath should be met with some resistance. This is correct breathing. Remembering this and sitting with a straight spine led me to not breath for long periods. Even though it can be quite uncomfortable not breathing for long periods I noticed that taking fewer BUT ACTUALLY CORRECT breaths was absolutely worth it. The reason breathing isn’t happening is because I refuse to suck in air like I used to and letting it happen on its own is taking some time getting used to. Tensing up to prevent air sucking and relaxing to let air filling happen is finding its balance right now.
    By breathing less you expend less energy. Breathing wrong sucks energy out of you. Correct breathing generates energy. A straight spine keeps an endless flow of energy running upwards. These things combined has made my sessions atleast 5 times easier on my mind. You don’t have to push your mind like you do everytime you bring awareness to the breath. Awareness of the breath is subtle in comparison to keeping your body erect. Body is gross, breath is subtle. Push your body, not your mind. This is the key. Your body can handle your clumpsy awereness. Bring that clumpsy awereness to your breath, thoughts, emotions or self and you’re going to put your mind to a task it cannot yet handle. It’s simply torture for the mind to try and stay aware of the breath while the body isn’t in a state where it’s ready to allow that to happen.
    Keeping the body in a certain position doesn’t take much mind power at all. It’s very easy on the mind. Expending less energy on your sessions will let you sit for longer and be more clear headed afterwards. You’ll feel like you just sat down and rested your mind and put your body to work for a while. Much more relaxing.
    Keypoints:
    1 Remain aware of the whole spine at the same time, not starting with one end or whatever. Remaining aware of the whole spine will let you fine tune it. If you for instance remain aware of just the lower back you might tense the upper back in a wrong way to straighten the lower back.
    2 Weigh back and forth between tensing and relaxing. See how relaxed you can get without your completely straight back slouching. It may start to slouch, then you know not to relax those muscles. Go back and forth like this. End goal is a completely straight spine held up effortlessly.
    No more key points for now, I might write up some more later.

    Other shit I’ve been doing:
    Listening to Baba Ramdev, search for baba ramdev english meditation on youtube for his pranayam meditation. He seems enlightened.
    Basically given up on Buddhism completely. It offers nothing that yoga doesn’t offer. Except for an organised religion.
    Very basic yoga poses. I’m going to buy Sadhgurus Inner Engineering thing as I only trust him and Baba Ramdev right now when it comes to yoga. I want perfect yoga instructions from the very beginning.

    • Monk Bro says:

      Forgot to say: Baba Ramdevs Pranayam (basic pranayam I suppose) is super powerful. I should have gotten into kundalini stuff earlier. Manipulating the breath using muscles in the stomach is simply a quicker way to hit the right spots for pleasure-chemicals to be released.
      I felt like I did more progress with three days of pranayam than I did with basic breath watching over the last six months.

    • Illuminatus says:

      Thanks for this. I’m considering making it a Start Here post.

    • James says:

      I’ve considered doing the Isha inner engineering program, I want to do their bhuta shuddhi program.

      If you take inner engineering i’d love to hear how it went for you.

    • Arpan says:

      To add to this very excellent stuff, for those with a poor breathing habit in general I have found maintaing continual breath awareness(for entirety of waking period) very powerful. I had been told to breathe more deeply since years as it is the foundation to great pranic levels and mental acuity, which I found quite an ardous task to perform.
      However, continual breath awareness made me naturally aware of the discomfort my breathing pattern was causing me(i live in my head a lot). I found myself naturally wanting to dissipate the subtle suffocation and breathing deeper throughout the day, leading to great upliftment of mood, energy, awareness and concentration. This awareness also makes one aware of all conjuncts of one’s being: eg posture. Poor posture seems like a torture being inflicted on the body and one is bound to correct it naturally.

      I have found “awareness” to be a great healer in general. Eg. I told a chain smoker who was unable to quit, to just be aware of the entire process of smoking, right from when he lights his lighter to the time he inhales and exhales the smoke. His frequency miraculously dropped to 2 or 3 cigarettes a week. He said he just became aware of a lot of discomfort which he had known when he was new to smoking. He had just become unconscious of the discomfort and started regiatering only the pleasurable chemical hit while he smoked absent mindedly (I read this method in Osho’s work btw..not my invention..also i think a lot of smoking is driven by negative emotional states one is not fully aware of).

      • Illuminatus says:

        Another great post. With you guys here, maybe I can retire from writing. 🙂

      • Monk Bro says:

        Awereness seems to be without fail beneficial in all circumstances. But it’s very slow and painful only to use awareness. There are a lot more powerful ways of making change. For instance you can apparently change the molecular structure of a tree by just looking at it. But you can really change the molecular structure if you grab an axe and start chopping. That’s roughly how I see awareness vs yoga/pranayam etc..

        • Arpan says:

          That is precisely why I wrote “to add to” what you wrote. I am myself strongly inclined to yoga, which is strengthened by me being a born hindu. Here I meant to emphasise the life altering effects of something so mundane without any apparently obvious technique.

          Many people are deeply technique-averse(i was too..initially) and such advice can be a gateway to more “obscure” and seemingly ritualized/technique heavy stuff like Kundalini yoga. This forum is a great example of this, how from simple awareness techs of buddhism, discussions have veered more and more towards kundalini and yoga.

          Also, I don’t think everyone has the overall mental-emotional and physical setup to dive into yoga/pranayam. You can’t have a newbie who is lost in fantasies every 5th second and keeps doubting the process to practice kundalini tech effectively where the whole point is to work according to subtle feel of one’s energy flow etc. Patanjali himself states cultivation of yama and niyama before further yoga(which is again possible only by awareness and also strenghthens awareness in general) .

          That said, I do think lack of physical culture and energy work is the bane of buddhist practice for many. Just watch Ajahn Brahm’s guided meditations: he cursorily goes over postire telling ppl to settle down comfortably for an hour and relax their bodies. He does not seem to realize that a large number of people do not have a trained spine like him and need considerable physical culture to progress as fast as he would like them to. He similarly dismisses pranic experiences as “what hindus call winds” , something to be ignored as it can, according to him, be at best a distraction and at worst a peril. This is the problem with En-mass spritual teaching in general: no attention to the individual. Many people are made for energy work and one size fits all anapanasati many at best slow them down or at worse screw their mental balance if kundalini rises.

          The above is also the point where Sadhguru openly differs from Baba Ramdev. Latter is focussed on “mass transformation”. Eg sheetkaari pranayam cools the system down. You teach it en masse, and someone predisposed to catching common cold might do it in winters and worsen his condition whereas it is meant to be done by people of an opposite disposition..or..atleast not in winters.

          PS: Sri Anirvan, a yogi belonging to the Baul sect of wandering monks gives an instruction on straightening the spine that works well with me and many others: Don’t try yo straighten it, imagime it to be straight.(It seems much like Patanjali’s instruction about meditating on the mind of an enlightened being)

          • Monk Bro says:

            I realised some time after writing the instructions on HOW to make the back straight that there are many ways to do it. I also remembered how frustrated I was about not being able to sit with my back straight whatsoever in the beginning. It was my biggest problem. Our culture has made our bodies stiff, it’s terrible.
            I’m doing the 7 pranayams by baba ramdev, 5min khabalbhati+5min onum vilom+1×5 min the other ones+finish with open awareness. This is the most I can do and still do the whole thing in one go.
            Do you think I can do a few minutes of khapal bhati and anulom vilum any time during the day? Assuming I’m mentally ready and havn’t eaten for 3~ hours.

            Nice to have someone here that’s more experienced with this stuff. I agree with you that there’s probably a lot of potential being lost with people practicing anapanasati and not moving on to energy work.

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