Nine Purifying Breaths: Basic Form

2016/04/05

I want to talk about one of my favourite Buddhist energy work techniques. Personally right now my system is a bit sluggish, and considering I’m doing a retreat and spending the next three weeks pretty much living in temple with my Rinpoche I need to be at my best, so I’m doing this a lot. Also a few weeks ago I was at a party and a friend asked about clearing out her system, and I wanted to do a write up for her and forgot.

The Nine Purifying Breaths (དགུ་རླུང་བསངས་ gulung sang) is a great technique, it’s simple, it’s effective, and it has the potential to be really complex and powerful, but doesn’t have to be. It’s also a fairly popular technique. Without even pausing to think I can come up with three books I’ve seen it in. The “trouble” is the way it’s written about differs, I’ve learnt it from four different lamas in four different forms. There is a Tibetan saying (according to my Rinpoche, google came up with nothing) “Every lama has his own rituals” which basically means everyone does things a little bit differently.

This post will be a little bit different from all the times I’ve been taught it, or read it, but I’m going to write it in a way, that will allow people to “scale up” as needed and able. What I mean is the practice, as is most traditionally taught relies on a fair amount of Tibetan Buddhist symbolism, but if you aren’t familiar with what red or blue or green symbolize, or what a snake or chicken symbolize the practice will be more bizarre than helpful. That said it’s a practice that I’ve effectively seen simplified by teachers to make it accessible, and those of us with more of a foundation in tantric practices can add in more as we go.

The Nine Purifying Breaths is pretty much what it sounds like, a set of nine breaths that purify your energy system. They do a lot more than that, especially in the complex forms, but at the basic level it’s a great way to get energy moving and cleared out. It’s practiced in all the schools of Vajrayana Buddhism, and as far as I can tell historically it predates them and comes from the Bön tradition. (I can find historical mentions of the practice, but never any mention of who came up with it, which suggests it came from Bön)

Before we can even begin you need to have a sense of the Energy System we’ll be working with. First disclaimer: If this doesn’t match the way you see your energy body that is fine, these things are our codification of abstract stuff beyond our understanding, so just practice it this way with these visuals and then you can go back to your own system, that does work. What is described here is a model, not ultimate reality.

Pay attention to the placement of the channels, don't worry about the colours or the other shapes.

Pay attention to the placement of the channels, don’t worry about the colours or the other shapes.

The practice will focus on the three main channels: The central channel which opens at the crown of your head runs through the spine (or just in front of it) and opens out the base of your spine, and the left and right channel which open at the nostril go up behind the eyes over the skull and down the side of the spine and then curl up into the central channel just above the base of the spine. There are traditional colours associated with the channels, but they differ occasionally, and aren’t important for the basic version of this practice. The central channel is about as thick as your thumb or index finger, the left and right channel are a bit thinner than your pinkie finger. Some other practices and systems have the left and right channel swirling around the central channel, or looping at certain points, in this case they just go straight down. Do not worry about your energy centres and how these channels do or don’t interact with them, it’s unimportant at this point.

Onto the actual practice: Sit in a proper meditation posture, if you can do the Seven Point Posture I recommend that. This is one of the few practices where I feel the need to stress sitting on the ground in some form of crossed legs. Getting it to work properly in a chair is a bit of extra work, though it might not seem like it, because how the subtle channels interact with the physical body it is important.

In both hands place you thumb firmly against the base of the ring finger and keep them there until the practice is done. Raise your right hand and with the ring finger press it against your right nostril to close it. Take in a slow deep breath through the left nostril. As you’re breathing in picture radiant clear light flowing in with the breath, into the left nostril, up the left channel behind the eye and over the skull, and down beside the spine, and then finally into the central channel. Don’t worry if you can’t “fill” the central channel, you’re not trying to, you’re just trying to put your breath into it. Pause holding the breath and move as much of this light into the central channel as possible. Move your right hand over, and using the ring finger block your left nostril. Breathe out your right nostril. As you breathe the light moves from the central channel into the right channel where they connect by the base of the spine, travels up the channel around the back of the head over the skull, behind the eye and out through the right nostril. As the light moves through this channel it clears out the obstructions, the negative/stagnant energy, the gunk and crap stuck in that channel, the breath that comes out isn’t the clear light that came in, but instead is a thick oily smoke. You can guide the smoke to either settle into the ground where it is absorbed by the earth and carried deep into the planet to be purified there, or it can spread out into space like smoke would and as the light and wind catch it it is scattered and purified into nothing. Repeat this two more times.

Now repeat the same process, but switch sides. Taking your left ring finger block your left nostril and breathe in clear vibrant light through the right nostril, up the right channel, down the channel, and finally into the centre. Move the left hand over and block the right nostril. Breathe out the left nostril, having the light drain from the central channel into the left channel through the connection by the base of the spine, up the channel, clearing out the gunk as before, then finally releasing the oily smoke through the left nostril. Repeat this two more times.

Place both your hands on your legs near your hips, palms up. Press down with your wrist putting a bit of pressure on your legs, your wrists should be over your femur. (I’m going light on the more technical/physical instructions, but I feel this is a good practice even in the simple form) Breathing in through both nostrils draw in that radiant clear light into both the left and right channel at once, up behind the eyes and over the skull, down the back and curling up into the central channel. Pause holding your breath for a moment to draw as much of the light into the central channel as possible. Now continuing to press down on your legs, slowly start to bend over from the waist as you breathe out. While the breath is physically leaving your nostrils, the light is actually going to travel up through the central channel, as before clearing and purifying as it goes, and out through the crown of your head as that oily smoke again. You don’t have to bend all the way over, but as far as you comfortably can. When you’ve finished breathing out the black smoke from your head sit up straight and repeat two more times.

This post is becoming longer than expected, so I’ll have to explain the more complicated/detailed elements in another post. For now practice it this way.

I will give some advice though. If it’s your first time doing it, or the first time in a long time, only do nine breaths. It might seem simple, and you might want to try again, don’t. Give you system time to adjust. After a day or two you can try doing the nine breaths twice in a row if you want. You should never do more than three sets of nine even if you’re used to it. That’s a general rule I see, and I find trying to do more will leave you more light-headed and open than is useful. You can wait a few hours and do another set, just avoid doing them too close together. Also I’ve been told you’re never to do more than three sets of three in a day, but I’ve never done that many, so I can’t say if that limit is symbolic or there for a purpose, but I can think of several reasons why it would be unwise.

The way I put it here has you do three breaths on one side, three on the other, and then three for the central channel. Another way to do it is to do one breathe on the right, one on the left, back and forth until you’ve done three each, and then do the central channel. I find that is less effective in the simple form if your system isn’t clean yet, you’re pushing some of that energy gunk back and forth, rather than slowly pushing it out of the system. If your system is in good shape though and you don’t have much to push through, then it’s fine. I find it’s less effective in general with the more complicated forms, probably because you’re doing more complex visualizations and energy work, and switching energy types and visuals back and forth is less productive than the repetition.

Since this is something I’ll have to revisit soon to explain more, ask questions and I’ll try to incorporate them into the following posts.


Losar, House Cleaning, and Kicking Out Crud

2013/02/11

During secular New Years I was incapacitated due to a minor case of the plague, so I never got around to my New Years House Cleaning. While I may do a major House Cleaning throughout the year, whenever I feel that stuffs needs to be cleared out, I always do one at New Years, so I know it’s done. I didn’t, and it took me a while to recover, and by the time I did it had slipped my mind. When I started having uncharacteristically bad dreams near the end of January a friend asked about my Wards, and I realized that I had missed this year. I decided to wait until Losar (Tibetan New Years, today) to perform the rituals, it’s customary in Losar to house clean, do some banishing rituals, and celebrate. While I have issues about adopting Tibetan customs (over Vajrayana ones) I figured it would be an appropriate time to work.

Now I’ve spoken about the type of house clearing rituals I perform before and this one follows much the same pattern. Though the details change it is always the same four steps: Warning/Dismissal, Shakeup the Energy, Igne Interficiatur, and Blessings.

Now before I began I cleaned the house; not the complete house for various reasons, but the dining room, the kitchen, and my room were properly cleaned, and everything else tidied up. I reupholstered the chairs in my dining room, and cleaned off the table for the first time in ages. I was amazed at how much it improved the energetic flow of the room. All of this is more relevant for another post, but in general, clean up, and improve before you majorly clear a place.

Warning/Dismissal: I don’t banish right away. Spirits wander by, spirits get trapped, not everything unwanted is malicious, so to start off they get a warning, a push, and a way out. I start in the farthest darkest corner of my basement. I’ve meditated and assumed a Wrathful aspect, a terrifying astral form, right now it’s more about strength and intimidation. In Vajrayana (and Mahayana) figures have a Wrathful and a Peaceful aspect. I call to everything in the house that it is time to go, I’m giving them plenty of warning, but it’s time to leave my house. If they’re friend/family/Family/ally they can retreat to my altars, but if not it is time for them to GTFO. I then dropped several drops of Quadrivium’s Banishing Oil in my furnace’s humidifier. I find airducts and furnaces are somewhat like veins and hearts, so by placing some of the Banishing Oil (which smells wonderful to me) into the furnace as the water is spread through the house it is “breathing” out the oil and the effect. Then from that dark far corner I start burning my incense of sulphur, tobacco, and dragon’s blood. In my Wrathful aspect with a strong Voice I continue to proclaim a warning and to announce the upcoming eviction of the spirits. I walk from room to room, all the doors in the house are open, all the lights are on, and I spread this smoke and command through the house. I end up at the front door where I leave the rest of the incense to burn, and I return to the far dark corner.

Shakeup the Energy: I refocus myself and take on a Peaceful aspect, one that is more placid and friendly, but still filled with strength, if a different type. Using my singing bowl, in what I’m sure is a very untraditional manner, I begin making it sing. There is something about the hum of the bowl that I can connect to, it’s like the hum is an extension of my energy and responds to me in much the same way. I fill the room with the sonic energy and then I rattle it, I shake it, I make the bowl chatter, and the energy in the room flakes a bit, it comes loose. What is trapped in the dark stagnant areas is shaken free and pulled away from the hidden places. What is really loose I cast forward, using the sound as a force to move it ahead of me, until it’s been cast out the front door, and if anything can’t be pushed out it will be dealt with in the next step. Again, it’s room to room, every place, all the closets, no place is spared.

Igne Interficiatur: I have the bottle of Banishing Oil in my pocket, and I’m wearing my domta, a Tibetan ritual hat which among other things increases my energetic perception. Back in that dark far corner I resume the Wrathful aspect, and begin. Rainbow fire streams from the hands in this form, burning whatever it touches, or clawing forward the few most stubborn parts that can’t be burnt so easily. In every room, more than once in large rooms, or rooms with a noticeable division point, once the area has been burnt I cry out “Phat,” a complex and powerful syllable in Tibetan, with it appears a flash of fire which gets most of what remains, and I leave a glowing crystal Phat in the place where I cried it. I continue from room to room, leaving a collection of crystal Phats dangling in the air, reflecting rainbow light from clear light. When I’ve completed the entire house I sit down in the Heart of the Home, it is literally the centre of my house on the ground level, right beside a Grandfather clock (so it even has a heart beat) and with a slow and shallow Phat I connect myself to each of these centres. I call forth a Clear Wisdom Fire, a purifying energy, and I radiate it out from each of these points, scouring every room at once of whatever has left, stubborn or hidden. I put some Banishing oil on my finger, and go to the back door, I draw in oil and flame sigils of protection on the door frame, and do the same at the front door casting the charcoal and incense out into the snow.

Blessing: Taking the Peaceful aspect again I have a mix of incense that includes copal, red sanders, Green Tara incense, Abramelin incense, and mastic (and others, but that’s the bulk of it). From that dark far corner I start my rounds again, this time filling the air with pleasant evocative incense smoke (enough to suffocate a small child). In the Peaceful form I radiate out Clear Light and blue-crystal light, while I’m also calling to my spirits, coaxing them back out of the altars to walk my house freely, to take the smoke and energy and transform them into beneficial forms.

My Losar altar, cause I'm proud of it, and you read a lot to get here, so have a picture.

My Losar altar, cause I’m proud of it, and you read a lot to get here, so have a picture.

Because it is also Losar, once I completed this, I put the incense on my Losar altar, lit all the candles, filled the offering bowls, lit the incense, and began my rituals and my feast.

The house feels calm, still, quiet and beautiful. Like that still silence in a power out, when you realize that you’re surrounded by a dozen background noises (fridge, lights, fans, computers) and suddenly they’re gone. That’s what it feels like now. Still, silent, and beautiful. Clean and fresh for the New Year.


Cleaning House: Exorcisms, Astral Tidying, and Blessing

2012/01/01

Due to the plague I ended up home alone for New Years. Wasn’t my first choice, but not bothered by it and I did what any normal person would do when home alone on New Years, exorcise the house. With the New Year, New You prompt I had cleaned up the house, but it was time to take care of the other side of things. I usually cleanse the house whenever I feel it needs it, but I always do a major run down near New Years.

No babe, you can stay, I like them flexible.

For me a major clearing out the house takes a couple of steps, and while how I do each step tends to change from year to year the overall process is the same: Warning/Dismissal, Shakeup the Energy, Igne Interficiatur (sometimes more literally than others), and finally Blessings.

Before anything starts I turn on a light in every room and closet, and open every door, internal and external. The idea is I want to expose everything, not forget anywhere, but I also want the paths to be clear for anything that wants to escape. For the Warning/Dismissal phase I fumigate the house with incense containing such things as sulphur, dragon’s blood, myrrh, and tobacco. I tell spirits to leave, I’m not banishing anything at this point, I’m polite with spirits, I’m letting them know I’ll be banishing soon and if they don’t want to get caught by it to get out. The incense makes them uncomfortable, but doesn’t force them out. I go room to room announcing it is time for them to leave, and what is coming next. I leave the incense burning in the front door frame until the final step.

Then I Shakeup the Energy. When energy flows get trapped -in mess, in unused area, in ignored spots- it solidifies a little, caked-on astral gunk. In this stage I basically get everything moving, some of it gets tossed out, but for the most part it’s just to loosen everything up, like the pre-soak before you scrub something. This step is pure Kalagni, something I’ve done for a decade, never been taught, never seen anything like it, probably horribly untraditional. Again I go room to room, this time with my singing bowl. Sound is a big thing in my paradigm and I find the hum of a singing bowl releases a type of energy I can manipulate, or it focuses me, or something. Anyways I use the energy-sound from the bowl to reach out into the corners, the crevices, and anywhere there is stuck energy, and I pull it loose and into the centre more. Some I toss before me, like sweeping out the heavy, some I just let sit, it will be taken care of in the next step.

The Primordial Party Girl

Igne Interficiatur, always my favourite. Spirits have been warned, energy has been loosened, time to actually clean house. Armed with my bell and my vajra (dorje) I become Singhamukha. While I’ve done this before, this is the first time I’ve done it since I’ve received proper training and as a figure connected to it (and let me say training and initiation make a difference). Ringing the bell constantly I say the 14 syllable mantra of exorcism (my lama would be upset I didn’t dance while saying it) and for each recitation I tap a wall, floor, or ceiling three times with the vajra, leaving a point of light behind. Once each surface has been marked while standing in the centre the mantra is said again and the points of light, which are really very small vajras, multiple and spread out across the surface. After the room is surrounded by vajras then lines of vajras appear between the initial marks, then between all the vajras in the lines and the marks, and all the vajras and the wall. Eventually the room is just a solid jumble of vajras, but wait, there is more, there are still gaps of space inside and between the vajras, so another mantra fills the space with a wind of fire that burns everything left behind. After this is done in every room then standing in the spiritual/psychological centre of the house (kitchen in this case) a vajra taller than the house is created, then one wider, then one longer, until the house has a triple vajra pointing in every direction sticking out of it. Like with the walls the spaces between the tips fill up with vajras, then space between vajras, until the entire house is contained in this vajra cube, and again the fiery wind. Glass of water as that step is tiring.

For the Blessings with incense including stuff like copal, frankincense, cedar, cloves, red sanders, and guar gum, I offer the smoke to the spirits. To friends, families, allies, spirits who work with me and walk with me, to angels, (obedient) demons, gods, goddesses, Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Dakinis, Dakas, constructs, elementals, shidak/shadak (local spirits), to disincarnate and disembodied of all types, as long as they are welcome. I move from room to room offering them the incense, inviting them back or to stay, and asking they help protect and bless the house. As I go through the house any door that doesn’t need to be open is closed, and light not needed is turned off. This incense is left to burn out at the front door too, there is serves as an invitation for those I called.

That’s pretty much it. I admit it’s far from the streamlined/minimalist approach, but it’s once a year I can spare the hour, hour and a half, it takes. I was disappointed; I only had one bizarre occurrence this year. When I closed the back door, as soon as I turned away from it something slammed against it from outside, hard. I reinforced the area so I could open the door and look out. It’s the door of the inside section of the porch, so I thought maybe I left the outside door open and the wind got it. No, the back porch was sealed and still, no breeze, but something slammed against the door. By far not the most interesting or creepy manifestation I’ve had while banishing my house. Maybe astral uglies don’t love me anymore.

What about you, what do you do to clear your house? Are yearly (or scheduled) cleansings worth it?


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