I’d known about life energy training (inner body work, aliveness awareness) for many years.
It’s described in many sutras. It’s a standard practice in many Buddhist traditions. Popular contemporary teachers such as Thich Nhat Hanh discuss it.
Life energy training, however, is not classic zen practice. Being a zen practitioner myself, I felt justified in ignoring it.
My attitude changed when I read, and reread, Eckhart Tolle’s stimulating books The Power of NOW and A New Earth.
There were two main reasons I found aliveness awareness very appealing. They are closely related.
First, it is very simple. (For a description of how to do it, click here or select the spiritual well-being category and scroll down to the “Life Energy” post.)
Second, unlike zazen, which is my primary practice, it is quickly mastered in the sense that it takes very little time to learn to get really good at it.
The problem with any traditional practice or technique is that it requires time to master. (I’ve mentioned this before; see, for example, my The 7 Steps to Mastery and The Three Things the Rest of Us Should Know about ZEN TRAINING.) This fosters the idea that spiritual mastery is a goal to be attained at some future time.
There’s something seriously wrong about that.
The Buddha himself repeatedly says that, although it requires striving, awakening can happen quickly — even, theoretically, in a day.
Other masters say similar things. For example, the Third Ancestor in the Ch’an [Chinese Zen] tradition says bluntly, “The wise do not strive after goals.” [Rochester Zen Center translation]
All goals are to be achieved in the future. Anything involving the future inherently involves thinking. Where, outside thought, is the future? The future has no reality outside thinking. Thinking obstructs Realization, which can only occur in the present moment.
Like all awareness (consciousness), aliveness awareness is right here right now.
If you already meditate, it’s a very useful adjunct to meditation. Actually, life energy training is a kind of meditation.
In zazen and many other kinds of meditation, the practitioner focuses on breathing, which draws attention away from thoughts. In life energy training, the practitioner focuses on sensing the body from within, which draws attention away from thoughts.
My experience is that aliveness awareness works well with zazen. There’s little difference between feeling the breath infuse itself throughout the body and feeling the aliveness inside the body.
It’s true that aliveness awareness requires you to pay attention to, for example, the sensations inside your hands (and feet and legs and arms and so on). You may be so attached to thoughts that, initially, that is difficult.
If so, just stick with it. Just do aliveness awareness for a few minutes every day. You’ll soon begin to feel it.
Don’t worry: your life energy is there! Your cells, too, are alive. It’s just that you are so lost in thought that you don’t notice their aliveness. Life energy training corrects that.
If you are looking for an easy, simple way to begin spiritual training, I recommend life energy training. It’s effective and requires no special equipment or training. It can be done for just 5 or 10 or 15 minutes. Do just three 10-minute sessions daily and there’s half an hour of spiritual training daily, which is an excellent start.
If you already have a spiritual practice and are looking for a boost, I also recommend life energy training.
Many meditators are obstructing their own progress by adopting as a goal achieving a certain state of mind. This cannot work. Why?
The perfect state of mind, complete acceptance of what is, is only available in the present moment. If you are thinking about getting somewhere, you are preventing yourself from Realization.
If you haven’t already, why not give life energy training a try? You’ll be glad you did.
If you do, please leave a comment below to share with others about how you are doing.
Permit me to give the Buddha the last words [from Anguttara Nikaya 7:70; IV 139; Bhikkhu Bodhi, tr.]: “Meditate,” he says, “do not be negligent, or else you will regret it later.”