How to overcome destabilizing disorders that occur from tantric practices.
Greetings once again Friends from retreat down here in Crestone, Colorado. I wanted to briefly talk about what experiences can happen on retreat. I have a number of references on my blog to people who’ve had wind imbalances, which is kind of a kicking up of insomnia and anxiety and a feeling of destabilization that can come by performing tantric practices. A lot of the practices we do, they’re called inner channel practices that affects how energy flows in the body and can make what’s called a wind imbalance, which is the way that energy flows through. The body can become stuck, can become congested, or it can go into different places that are not healthy. And the DAOist tradition energy circulates a certain way around the body and in the Tibetan and Chinese systems, you have channels in your subtle body, and when you’re doing tantric practices, sometimes something can go wrong.
And a number of years ago I was determined to attain enlightenment. I bought this house here in Crestone and was doing these really high practices. Now I had permission to do them and I had done all my preliminaries. You actually have a lot of preliminaries before these teachers give you permission to perform certain practices. I won’t discuss them because they’re kind of on the level of not public or secret, and not because I have any high holy qualities, it’s just because some of them are dangerous. So most recently, some of my teachers and friends have been offering these practices more publicly to anybody. And so because of that, I suspect there may be an increase in people having trouble and you may not know what’s happening. You might not even attribute it to the tantric practices that we’re doing. So these practices are called tsa lung or trulkhr, also the nine breaths. Chandali practice is another name. So anything, it’s kind of under the level of Kundalini yoga. Anything that is altering and changing your fundamental winds, your subtle body, your breath and energy system. Once you’re in retreat or doing practices like that, something can go wrong. In a number of years ago, I was doing these retreats. As I said, I wanted to attain enlightenment. I was like hitting it really hard. I’m doing hardcore breathing and staring out into the sun and throwing my body back on a mat.
I think in all honesty, I was a bit obsessed. I was like, “I’m going to attain enlightenment! I’m going to be a person that gets out of the wheel of suffering and attains enlightenment.” I was kind of determined and kind of attainment oriented. And right then and there is already a fundamental problem in retrospect because there was a lot of tenacity and pushing. And these practices actually are supposed to be, even if you’re using a forceful or wrathful method, they’re supposed to be fundamentally gentle and opening. So you allow your being to let go and open and then blocks in your nervous system, which is your subtle body can gently open and you can become more compassionate and clear. Not really aggressive like I’ll attain Enlightenment come hell or high water. I think I almost ended up in the hospital this the first time was in 2013 and it turned out I was doing practices by permission that wound up exacerbating my already predominant element.
So I happened to have a lot of wind, which is a lot of emotionality, a lot of thoughts, just a lot of kind of fluttery energy. That’s probably from being a trauma survivor. That’s already my predominant element in the Ayurvedic and Tibetan systems, you’ve got three primary elements. You have wind is one of them, and then you have bile and you have blood and fire. And so Ayurveda has the same thing, the three different humors and elements. So if you have a predisposition for one, then you have to be careful about what you eat, how you conduct yourself, how to stay in balance. And indeed what type of spiritual practices are the right medicine for you and your constitution. A lot of the practices I was doing were designed back in the year 1000 for Tibetans that have a very kind of, they are nature based they’re very slow, very dull, not a lot of stimulation. So their elements are kind of dull and sleepy and heavy. And here we’re like quick and emotional and windy. So you take someone that has that already and you have them do Kundalini yoga Chandali, tummo throlkhor and it’s a recipe for disaster. I have a reference for a book, Balanced Mind, Balanced Body by FPMT and that’s well referenced all over my blog. So anyone who’s doing a lot of retreat practice, you probably want to get a copy of this book. It gives
It gives Guided instructions of what can happen if your subtle body or nervous system go into overwhelm and you’re frightened or anything gets kicked up there. One of the issues that I’d like to bring up is how Kundalini syndrome is actually considered this sort of mystical process with a lot of people who are consultants in the yogic tradition. They say, oh, it’s some type of mother Kundalini, and you’re in the middle of this great evolutionary thing and there’s no way to control it. And I think that that’s ridiculous and it can be very, very harmful to spiritualize something that can be, it’s so severe sometimes that these imbalances through these practices can cause debilitating anxiety, insomnia, or even psychotic breaks where your nervous system actually gets blown out, you could actually die. I think there’s even history of some of these yogis in the past kind of just dying through, evoking so much energy in their nervous system and in their subtle body that they weren’t able to handle it.
So I had invited a Tibetan Tummo teacher here in February of 2023 and we did a week-long retreat and it was magnificent. We were doing all these Tibetan yogas and mudras and I felt like I was some, once again some high holy yogi. I’m doing all these practices and it’s a beautiful lineage. But then when I got home, both me and the teacher, we really couldn’t sleep because it just brings up so much energy. And I was laying in bed and this has happened before, so I recognized it. And my body was having involuntary convulsions, not like a seizure, but there would be a fluttering in the hand and I would be discharging energy or the leg. So the nervous system would be kind of jolting involuntarily. And I didn’t know what was happening. I’m like, God, am I having altitude sickness? What is it from these practices?
And I prayed to my teacher for insight or source and they said to me, well, your nervous system, when you perform these tantric practices, it opens up everything quickly. It almost has a nuclear effect on your nervous system and the subtle body and your channels aren’t used to things being open like that. You’re usually kind of blocked and dull. So once you do these practices, everything opens very quickly. So it’s almost like a pipe being plunged. It’s like your whole nervous system gets plunged very quickly and then boom, all this energy’s flowing through it. And that’s why in Tibetan Buddhism we talk about a person being a proper vessel for More and more high tantric teachings.
Are you grounded? Have you done your preliminaries? Are your elements fundamentally sound and in balance so you can withstand more and more energy coming through you? It’s literally like lightning. And I guess because of my trauma from the past and my particular element toward wind, these are not the right practices for me to do in this lifetime and maybe not at all ever. So if this happens to you while you’re on retreat, it’s a subtle body and a biological process, I wanted to explain to you what happens. So first I’ll do these practices and I’ll start to shake. And then another thing that will happen is this is really strange. In the heart center, it will feel like I have some type of, call it like a wind in the heart and it will feel that I’ve lost the anchor of the core of my well-being and my internal, it’s almost like a biological process.
My mind can be very fine and clear. There’s nothing whooped up in the mind necessarily, but in the body just feels this sense of something’s not quite right. And it’s so fundamental because if you’re feeling of well-being and inner strength is kind of knocked off and you feel this sort of vacuum in the heart, it’s weird. It feels as though when I do these practices, something gets dislodged and there’s a fundamental flutteriness or fear right in my heart chakra, and it actually almost has a life of its own. It’s almost like a little mouse in there. It feels like this vacuum, it hurts, it’s fluttery and it’s very, very real and very body-based. And then after a couple of days, if it’s really gotten lodged, I feel it actually moving upward. So we call this lung/loong so it actually can migrate upward and then actually lodge in the head and that UL can stay in the head at that point.
You can have terrible insomnia, anxiety, racing thoughts, high blood pressure, hypertension, and that can be pretty destabilizing and it can take a while to heal from this. But I think people who have something similar to me who are doing tantric practices or doing later treat practice, it’s really important that you understand this. Know the kind of job hazards and know how to recover. Recovery is definitely possible from Kundalini syndrome. It’s called my teacher calls it lung in the head. The wind or lung L-O-O-N-G can get lodged in the head. So we actually have to bring it down and I can send a link. He has a number of meditation practices where you do a body scan
And you actually allow sand in a jar that’s being stirred around. You allow that to just settle down and you allow your life force energy to settle down into the deepest core of your being. You do very slow box breathing or abdominal breathing, and then your energy can become locked and housed below the navel. That’s the tantian, your hara, the place where your life force energy should be not running up and down the spine. And that’s another thing I’ve seen before this has happened to me three or four times with these practices is the energy. I mean, I could just be sitting there and I can feel it sort of scurrying around, fluttering in the tummy. It’s flutter, flutter, flutter. It actually feels like there’s actually something alive within your nervous system that’s kind of like a mouse that’s scurrying around your nervous system and it’s really, really painful and really destabilizing.
It’s really hard to practice. It’s hard to function when this happens. Sometimes if the insomnia gets really bad or anxiety, it can take a momentum and it’s taken me somewhere between one day to eight months to recover. So there’s been a number of folks that have said to me, maybe you should cool it and not do these practices, but somehow I always get back up and I try them again and same thing happens again. I always think that maybe I’m going to become this really grounded, anchored, heavy person that can do these practices. But it’s been suggested also that since the nervous system has had Kundalini syndrome a few times that there are other practices out there than the, we call it an yoga tantra than the inner channel practices, the prana practices. There’s other stuff that I can do that’s more calming and grounding and opening rather than evocative.
So likewise, if any of you have had trouble with anxiety, insomnia, wind imbalances through doing inner channel practices, cool. It don’t use these practices as a method. There’s plenty of other stuff to do that doesn’t cause an imbalance. So if this happens to you, I have sent the link to the book, balanced Mind, balanced Body, and that has an amazing amount of techniques of people who’ve done three-year retreat or long retreats and they just somehow have some difficult thing happening where it’s usually insomnia, anxiety, sometimes even like a psychotic break. I’ve heard this happen a lot on a three-year retreat or people that go into solitary retreat, the ground falls out and everything falls in around them and they’re very, very
Frightened. They feel that they’ve opened up to energy that they were not able to process. So this happens, it’s kind of like job hazard. So we have to be kind to ourselves. If this happens, it’s not mental illness and it’s nothing super spiritual. It’s not like, oh, the Buddhas and the Gods and Mother energy are trying to have you learn something. I think that to spiritalize it and to not understand the basic mechanics of what’s happened to you, yes, it is the subtle body, but it’s not really spiritual. It’s kind of mind bio-energy channels. It’s very practical. And there’s a number of things that you can do to remedy these wind imbalances. One thing that is really important, if this does happen to you first and foremost, you’ve got to recognize that, oh, I was doing these practices and something got dislodged and kicked up.
So just it’s not you. You’re not mentally ill, you’re not having a nervous breakdown. You don’t have to run to the mental institution, you don’t have to run to the doctor, you don’t have to be really scared. This happens to people who do these practices. I would say anyone that’s doing any of the antara practices, thruklor, at some point you’ll experience this. So I think it’s very, very common. And so what I’ve done, and I’ve written about this quite a bit, is simplify my life, reassure myself that it’s going to be temporary, eat very heavy grounding foods, start taking supplements, sunshine. I stop all the tantric practices. And in fact, I usually stop practicing altogether, even shamatha because anything that will just evoke more energy and more wind and corn, a more esoteric, anything that’s just not kind of hardcore meat and potatoes level of reality, I cut during that time where I’m trying to come back into balance. No mantras, no visualization, no tripping anything, just maybe going for gentle walks. Earthing, which is taking off your shoes, laying down on the earth actually feels really good, being around water, taking baths, all the stuff that you do to heal a dis-regulated nervous system. And then I think this has happened to me about six times in my life and I just keep trying to do these practices. And a few of the times, I think twice now, it got so severe that I did have to do a course of sleeping pills overseen by a provider,
And then they slowly tapered me. So that’s in the most extreme where you’re not able to come back into balance on your own. So that is an option. That’s kind of a last ditch effort once nothing else works. But I had this happen a couple of years ago. I was doing an online Tummo class and I started have terrible anxiety. I was shaking and I took three days off, shut down all social media and I was able to recover fully and get grounded again. So it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be off balance for an untold amount of time, depending on what you do to take care of your nervous system. If you have the time in your life to do a self-care immersion, then you can heal much quicker. So I will send a link to all the things and all the conversations I’ve had with some of the experts who teach Tsa Lung/Thrulkor/Tummo and hopefully they would be of benefit to you.
I’m explaining what happened to me to try to understand why this happens so often and also how to heal. So I would, if you do have a Kundalini syndrome, I would not at all go to any blogs that spiritualizes it and makes it into this kind of dramatic, esoteric thing where they don’t actually talk about the practicality of how to heal and how to get grounded. So it’s not mystical if you’re having a psychotic break and seeing voices and lights and sparkles. I mean, this is terrible. It’s terribly frightening, and I don’t think it’s a conduit for our spiritual path to have so much energy running up and down our system that we can’t assimilate it. This is called deranged qi or disordered qi or harmful Kundalini. So we want to be in control of the energy. We want our practices to engender health, wellness, groundedness, and clarity and well-being.
We don’t want to have stuff just go off balance and we feel out of control or feel like our practice has made us feel frightened, overwhelmed, or indeed psychosis. So that’s not very good. But there is help if this does happen to you. I’ve dedicated my blog for resources and research from different traditions and different modalities of how to heal. If you are experiencing Kundalini syndrome and the pith instruction is to reassure yourself that it’s temporary and take steps to get grounded. And I’m providing a list of all those steps. And I wish all of you wellness and healing if this has happened to you. It is not uncommon and recovery is possible. Thank you so much.
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