Mailbag: Formations and Their Annihilation
I recently bumped into your blog. Its really amazing and I want to thank you for your walk and sharing from experience so much.
I still have a lot to read here but I want to ask you a question, Ive been “meditating” for 20 years and even though I ve gained benefits from my practice, after reading you I realize that I kind of stayed in an early stage and was happy there. I am here to move on.
My question relates to a deep chronic tensing of my perineal muscles, Ive tried many things in order to try and release that constant clenching. Its not there all the time, it always appear when Im talking to someone and at other moments. Its as if I would clench my fist and keep it like that for a while.
Ive tried to bring awareness in to the area but i cant pass through. I hope I am being clear with my words. SO Id like to ask if you can give me an advice in order to help me contact with and hopefully realease once and for all this tightness. I am sure there has to be some kind of emotional component but no matter how much catharsis i go through or emotional release , it changes nothing here.
MAybe you already wrote about something similar or that can help in this way so please , can you point me in a direction i can investigate or a practice you think may help??
Thank you again for the guidance you offer in your blog.
What you’re describing is a standard fear/anxiety response, common with social interactions. There is an emotional/psychological component — in Buddhism this is called a “formation”, and will be a mindbody impression of danger concerning that interaction. Formations are combined sensory, body and mental object impressions. In certain stages of meditation progress they can be perceived with great clarity.
The solution is to purge the formation entirely. You have to perceive the sensations clearly that make up the tightening response, along with the sensations of the mental object (the situation you are in that is triggering it). Together, all these sensations are a “formation”, and they are a whole. So, cause and effect does not exactly apply in the traditional Western way. So, it is not, “He sees X, and his brain interprets Y, and his body does Z.” It’s more like: it all happens at once and is a formation. And the formation is made of sensations. Typically, clearly perceiving those sensations tends to neutralize them.
The reason I am telling you this is is to outline the problem so you can understand my solutions.
See, the traditional Western approach would be to do talk therapy and discover the root of the fear and the quest for social acceptance yada yada yada and hope that that somehow causes the response to disappear. Of course, this basically doesn’t work at all, since there’s a lack of acuity in perceiving the sensations. (This is not to say talk therapy is useless; it isn’t. It just works in a different way, namely by providing a positive and accepting social bond.)
You have probably also tried bodywork approaches: work with the body response/ muscle and hope that there is a trickle-in into the mind side of things. This was my approach for a long time. It can have some effect, but mainly you end up working with gross sensations (“release this muscle”) and it’s not fine enough at all.
The solution is to do everything all at once by seeing the whole damn thing as a formation and fizzling away the formation. However, this does require significant meditative training and very high-resolution awareness of all the sensations that make up the formation (both mental and physical, which it turns out are actually the same substance at the sensate level). It also certainly requires the ability to slip into some interesting altered states (which are pretty normal for high-level meditators). The benefit of the formation approach is that the method for dealing with a formation works on ANY formation — including “pleasant” ones like addictions. The story of Buddha sat meditating beneath the tree while the Ten Armies of Mara attacked him is a story of formations, and the Buddha clearly perceiving and meditating through those formations in order to neutralize them.
I will now describe three methods I know of of dealing with formations, using your problem as the example subject. Please note that while these types of meditation are thought of as different, in my opinion they are all really just different paths converging towards the same destination which is the perception of and neutralization of formations.
– Kundalini. My preferred method. Intentionally trigger the formation, by entering a situation that causes it. Then either 1) get a good memory snapshot to retrigger it later while meditating, 2) walk away and do the meditation immediately on the fresh formation, or 3) do the meditation right there in the situation, which can be difficult if you are talking to someone at the time but with skill is definitely possible.
While the formation is active, send a broad stream of “up” energy from the ground up through the body. Notice that as it passes through there are tight areas. These are the physical aspects of the formation. The up-stream is acting like an interference pattern to reveal the formation. Now pass the stream through the blocks. The main issue here is that the stream must be made of ultra-fine particles in order to reveal the most subtle parts of the formation, otherwise there will be unpleasant resistance (although, generally, even a poor version of this exercise works better than doing nothing). The mental side of the formation is also dealt with during this process, which is harder to describe in words, but basically the mental is just ultra-fine physical sensations (mindbody nonduality). In about 50% of meditations I will personally get visuals of the karmic causes of the formation while this purge is going on, which are often logically nonsensical and seemingly have little connection to the current situation (which is why psychotherapy based on logical, linear connections is often useless — the mind is very broad and thematic). Continue the purge (the up-stream) during the visuals. Once purged properly, the formation will never return. However, understand that “social anxiety” (for example), is made of many formations and must be dealt with in many passes, though typically each pass will help the other linked formations as they are all interdependent.
I have personally eradicated 95% of my social anxiety using this exact method (and I’m just finding new ones to annihilate now; but the bulk of the work is done, meaning I am hardly ever anxious). Rapid progress can be made even in just a week, since many of the formations grow from the same root, and pulling out that root purges anxieties you thought were different but were all fundamentally connected.
Please note though that this type of practice probably takes years to develop since it requires both high acuity for sensations (which insight meditation trains) and ability to generate stable kundalini streams at will (and maintaining such streams as semi-independent objects is more a concentration meditation skill). I have a kundalini guide coming out soon which describes this practice, so watch out for that.
– Insight meditation. Probably a lot of training is required to be able to accurately perceive the sensations that make up the formation. You wrote: “Ive tried to bring awareness in to the area but i cant pass through.” The issue you are having is a lack of the high resolution required to really penetrate the block. To be honest, this takes a very long time to master. But, the time is going to pass anyway, and if this is your main issue, it is as good as any other to crack. Basically, you need to turn that awareness into an ultra-fine comb, passing through that locked muscle until your awareness can perceive every micrometre of it (here is a tip: nerves are far more important than muscle, and even nerves will eventually be resolved to just “sensations”, too). This will probably take months. If you just did that, however, you would likely gain all the insight required to solve your problem, seemingly “by itself” without requiring logical analysis.
Typically, the accurate perception of the sensations within that “block” is enough to simply negate it. So, just having true awareness of it often just causes it to vanish. This is a gateway to witnessing the full formation, as the mental side will likely begin presenting itself too.
I personally did insight meditation on an ankle injury which led to a hologram-like visual of the inside of the ankle. This also cured the injury (and hurt like hell while I was doing the “scan”).
– Concentration meditation. If you do pure concentration practice and get an intensely blissful jhana, then immediately enter the situation that usually bothers you, you will most likely find that the “formation” doesn’t even trigger. So, you wouldn’t even get the muscle tension that bothers you, or any of the connected urgent thoughts. They just wouldn’t arise. The mental state would be so altered that you would coast through the situation as though walking on a cloud. It is like personality transformation when this happens. Jhana is totally useful this way, though effects tend to be somewhat temporary. In that sense, you are basically suppressing negative formations from arising for some time after the jhana. By doing this often, there will be an eventual “pruning back” of the negative formations since, if they fail to arise so many times, they eventually die off.
On another occasion, after jhana, the negative formation might trigger but you might find you can now clearly perceive it and it is met with a lot of equanimity. Concentration meditation improves acuity of sensations by connecting them to the reward circuit (pain plus pleasure equals equanimity) meaning you do not recoil from the formation and can therefore begin standing to experience it, which changes its nature, usually permanently. This is a precursor to the formation being entirely witnessed and it disappearing forever.
In practice, all three types of meditation I just named invoke each other. The kundalini method uses concentration to maintain a kundalini stream, and insight to penetrate the formation. The insight meditation is powered by kundalini and uses “up” energy to neutralize the formation upon its witness. The concentration meditation uses positive kundalini in the same way, which ends up highlighting the formation and allowing insight to occur.
So, where do you go from here? I’ve given you a lot of information but not a lot of “do this” advice. Well, if you pursue any of those paths with a lot of diligence then you will almost certainly solve your problem. You could start however by running your awareness through your block a thousand times till you get that high acuity I spoke of. Things will reveal themselves to you during this process — you will gain insight, on the experiential level which cannot easily be put into words but which leads to a sort of intuitive “knowing what to do”.
Sorry, there’s no quick fix. What you’re describing is the essence of the human condition — knowledge of problems, but lack of knowledge of how to solve those problems. Most people just deflect them and blame someone or something else, which immediately causes the formations to propagate and reflect back and arise again and again and again in what then become predictable cycles. Be glad you are looking to annihilate these formations instead of sending them back out into the world.
The solution is to learn the meditative methods, since if you can crack one problem using them you can then crack absolutely any other problem that presents itself, since all these problems are the same fundamental thing: formations.
Note for readers: The kundalini guide is mostly written. I’ve got to make some graphics for it which is time-consuming, and set up the members area. Then the guide will be sent to a couple of members (who I’ve already nominated) for review, then I’ll release it. Next couple of weeks, tops.