Today we have Ryan DeBlanc on the blog. I noticed Ryan wrote a really nice post on Kundalini that was shared by one of our mutual friends. I contacted Ryan to discover he was super friendly and very willing to answer some of my questions for the blog. So huge thanks to Ryan for spending the time on these questions.
PAA: Please provide a brief introduction.
Ryan: First of all, thanks so much for having me on your blog. I really enjoyed the articles you sent me and I’m glad you asked me to participate.
Before getting too far into my introduction, I’d like to provide a brief disclaimer out of respect for the systems I practice: I haven’t been given the clearance to teach in any of these systems yet, so I don’t want my answers to be overly associated with them. Some of my opinions may differ from what they would say. My opinions also change over time as I continue to develop, as I believe they should for all practicioners.
With that out of the way, here’s a brief introduction and history of my time practicing internal arts:
I’ve always had a high sensitivity to subtler aspects of reality, and I’ve felt a strong pull towards the spiritual path for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, my awareness of energy and certain psychic senses were overwhelming. Due to being raised near Salt Lake City, Utah, in a family that was a bit overly paranoid about mental illness, this kind of thing was really looked down upon. There was concern that I was schizophrenic when I was little, which was thankfully discarded after visiting psychologists. My family always had the best intentions for me and I have no hard feelings about it whatsoever. These days, looking back on my childhood makes me laugh. Life is funny.
It took me a long time to find proper guidance for internal arts and spiritual cultivation. I went through many systems that either didn’t do anything or made me sick through improper practice. Thankfully, I eventually ended up finding safe, effective, and proper instruction.
The first system I found was Adam Mizner’s Heaven Man Earth Taijiquan. I was lucky enough to have a Heaven Man Earth teacher just a few hours away from me. I began my era of proper training with him. Nearly immediately, it explained many things about my life and began to teach me how to develop. I’ll always be very grateful to him for teaching me and to Adam Mizner for creating his system and being available to his students.
The second system I found was Damo Mitchell’s Lotus Nei Gong. Damo’s instruction through the online academy has also proved to be a great gift. Damo’s knowledge of internal arts is vast. To me, he also demonstrates a very high level of skill both with his practice and his character. I consider myself very fortunate to be able to interact with and learn from him.
The third system was Hermetics. I didn’t actually seek this one out. A teacher/highly skilled practitioner saw where I was at with my internal development at the time and offered to take me under his wing and learn Hermetics, in order for me to keep progressing at a steady rate. He completely blew my mind immediately. He’s also a highly skilled Qigong and Taijiquan practitioner.
PAA: Hermetic/Evocation and Kabbalah – What are you able to say about these subjects?
Ryan: My instructor’s approach to Hermetics seems to be a bit different than how some others approach it. Rather than solely focusing on the magic that’s so alluring and tempting for so many, he really emphasizes integrating release into practice. This is something I personally believe to be incredibly important, especially if one’s aim is liberation. The psychic and magical training is fascinating, but I believe that one needs to be able to move past the tendency to become obsessed with it in order to stay on the path to liberation. I see what I’ve learned from him as a set of tools to use to aid me on my path, as well as markers of progress.
I’ve received quite a few direct transmissions from my instructor, and we’ve since become good friends. More recently, I also started to practice with another Hermetics teacher as well who is directly under Sifu Mark Rasmus. I also consider him a good friend.
PAA: How big a role does mental training and the development of concentration have in your practice?
I’m of the opinion that mental training is very important for any spiritual path. Training be able to maintain one-pointed concentration for extended periods of time is vital. With time, my training has allowed me to become more and more used to it.
These days, I’ve started to be able to release into it rather than needing to bring my attention back to a meditation object every five seconds. I believe that being able to release into concentration rather than fighting yourself for it is something that’s needed to achieve meditation.
Another aspect of mental training that I consider vitally important is character development. Character development isn’t solely mental training, but I feel it’s easier to categorize it under that umbrella for the purposes of this interview.
Being able to see thoughts and character traits for what they are allows you to begin to disidentify from them. Nearly all of us have negative thoughts and character traits. Those who can’t begin to disidentify with them will always carry their negative personality traits in their bodies. That condition prevents release, and to me, release is one of the most important aspects of the spiritual path.
PAA: From seeing some of your social media posts you mention about the difference between the aforementioned mental training and real meditation, could you expand on this and provide your definitions of what would be considered meditation. The wording you use ‘it is very rare to find someone who has achieved meditation’, so do you see meditation as the result rather than the process.
Ryan: I’m a fan of calling things what they are to avoid confusion. The spiritual path is tricky enough as it is, so I believe that any form of distinction we can get our hands on is helpful. I initially got my definition of meditation from someone who trains with one of the most respected Buddhist meditation masters in the world.
To me, meditation is complete absorption. This means that all sensations and all perceptions leave. You’ve merged with God, Dao, The Absolute, or whatever you want to call it. I don’t really believe it’s possible to describe the state of meditation because there’s no content that can be understood mentally. Even calling it a state feels incorrect.
The closest I’ve come to being able to describe it is saying that it’s like being in dreamless sleep but somehow still “conscious” and “bathed in light”. That still feels like a highly inaccurate description, but it’s the best I can do. The first time it happened, right before I entered the state, I thought I was going to die. Still, I released into it anyway. Maybe I’m a little crazy after all!
I have no formal education in Buddhism and no Buddhist teacher, so I can’t say for sure, but I’ve been told by people I respect that I’ve entered this level of Jhana.
Despite having been told that, I approach all aspects of internal arts as if I’m a total beginner and that I’ll never know anything for sure, especially when it comes to meditation. I know that I’m no better than anyone else and I don’t want to fully assume I’m correct without a qualified teacher confirming it for me.
Avoiding delusion is important, so I can only go off of what people I really respect tell me, and what things objectively seem to be. I don’t want to put ideas into anyone’s heads or spread misinformation.
PAA: One post that caught my eye originally was the common occurrence of people mistaking types of Chi/Energy for a Kundalini Awakening. Could you expand on this point and provide some insight into what are huge differences? Also could you expand on what motivated you to write the post?
Ryan: What motivated me to write that post is that Kundalini Yoga is actually the first way I began to make myself sick through not understanding what I was doing. I was told about what genuine Kundalini Awakening is from a teacher I really trust. Through my own experience, I’ve also found that what he said is true. Well, when I say my own experience, I mean nearly everything other than actual Kundalini Awakening.
Kundalini is not the energy running up your spine that you feel during a Kundalini Yoga class. What you’re feeling there is an elevated amount of Yang Qi (a kind of electrical energy) moving through the spine into the brain. This can cause major problems if the body isn’t open enough to allow it to move out of the brain, which is the case for the vast majority of people.
It can cause constant panic attacks, fry your nervous system, and mess with your organs, just to name a few. This is exactly what happened to me. I also had scoliosis that I was told would require surgery to fix, so the amount of pain I was in from sending that much energy through my damaged spine was the most pain I’ve ever been in. Luckily, I was later able to fix my spine with Qigong.
It’s possible that the severity of my sickness was because I already had an awareness of energy long before I started doing Kundalini Yoga, but I still think that it’s a harmful practice unless one has already opened the body enough to be able to efficiently conduct energy.
From what I understand, nearly nobody has actually awakened their Kundalini. I don’t know of anyone alive that has. There may be one of two people, but they’re likely not public about it. There was a famous Yogi that brought the word Kundalini to the west, which I believe is where much of the misunderstanding comes from. If what he taught is anything to go by, he definitely didn’t awaken Kundalini either. He was mistaken.
Awakening Kundalini is absolutely insane. It’s so far down the line for the vast majority of us that it’s pretty much not even worth talking about. It’s said to be so unbelievably painful that you pass out, vomit, scream, and other stuff like that. It’s like your entire being is on fire.
It also literally changes everything about you. When I say that, I’m not talking about psychological changes, experiencing new planes of existence, or other psychic stuff. That stuff comes near the beginning of the spiritual path as far as I can tell. That stuff is fascinating, but actually pretty irrelevant for the most part if your aim is Nibbana. I believe those abilities should just be treated as markers of progress, not something to get stuck on.
Awakening Kundalini means you’re pretty much at the end of the spiritual path. Like, you’re pretty much done. Also, the Siddhi (abilities) that one is said to attain when one fully awakens Kundalini are not metaphorical. People think they are, but they’re not. To be blunt, until you come across someone who can physically be in two places at once, set things on fire with their minds, literally fly, or some other crazy things like that, then you haven’t met anyone that’s done it.
If people don’t believe any of this, that’s fine. I totally understand why they wouldn’t. I wrote that post just in case it can help one or two people avoid making the mistake I made, and avoid getting sick.
I hope your readers don’t take what I say here as discouragement for spiritual practice. You can still go very far without awakening Kundalini.
PAA: You mention there being more to the breath work, what else should people be considering when engaging in these practices?
I think that the most important aspect of breath work in the beginning is letting it properly anchor down into the lower abdomen. Most people breathe with their chests, which pretty much makes any higher level practice impossible.
The key to this practice is that you don’t force yourself to breathe with your belly; you have to allow it to happen. If you force it, you’re not really changing anything.
Wherever your attention naturally goes when you breathe is how low your breath actually is. You need to accept where your breath actually is, even if it’s all the way at the top of your chest. Just keep breathing and allow your attention to be where it is. With enough practice, the breath will sink and your attention will be drawn into the lower abdomen.
PAA: Lower Dantien – This is a big one. Real place, created place, felt, visualized? What is your opinion on this and what has led you to this conclusion?
PAA: Yes, this certainly is a big one. My opinion is that it’s not a place in the body, and that you don’t have one unless you’ve built it. To use an analogy, there’s a vacant lot where it goes, but you haven’t laid the foundation or built the building unless you’ve properly practiced the necessary internal work.
There are lots of ways for the Lower Dan Tian to develop, and some are more direct than others. Basically, to build the Lower Dan Tian, a Yin field needs to be build in the area where it goes. This becomes the container that eventually fills with Qi. If you try to put Qi in there without first building the container, the energy will just disperse.
In a way, the whole body can eventually become a Dan Tian, with a profound fullness of Qi that doesn’t disperse.
The lower Dan Tian gets more complex than just that as well, but I don’t feel I’m qualified to speak on it quite yet.
I think that two of the best ways to develop the Yin field are Taijiquan and various practices within Neigong, one of them being Dan Tian Gong. Neigong more direct in a way because you’re directly creating the field rather than just releasing until it fills. In my opinion, both practices are equally as effective. They just have different focuses. Choose the one that suits your goals.
PAA: Anything else you would like to share about any of these subjects?
Ryan: I’d just say to make sure you get your practices and information from legitimate sources. Beyond that, all I’d say is to remember to enjoy your practice! It’s a really profound and special thing to do, so keep appreciation for that. Have fun!