These core skill categories represent the fundamentals of just about every method of personal transformation that has every existed. Even basic competence in these 11 skill sets will allow for greater expression of the true human potential then most people even imagine. Mastering them will put you in the company of the great adepts.
The Activation and Cultivation of the Visionary Heart both develops and utilizes many of these core skills. While it is fruitful to devote time and attention to cultivating each skill set individually, the systematic training of Visionary Heart Alchemy will cover most of the bases.
Relaxation may be the most fundamental skill in that it directly supports all the other skills and most directly affects them. a great many alchemies have the ability to relax as a primary component. The skill of relaxation relates both to the physical and mental dimensions. (Energetic as well). At a basic level , mastery of this skill is the ability to mental and physically relax in any situation. This level of mastery would require the support of other skill most notably integration and intentional state change. The initial approach to the development of this skill is to learn to systematically progressively relax by intention. Basic proficiency is to be able, in conducive circumstances, to nearly instantly enter a state of profound relaxation and to have a solid trigger for relaxation that can be used in any circumstance
Breathing is also a very fundamental skill. Some degree of cultivation will be directly involved with the development of the relaxation skill. The way one breathes while relaxed is very different then when one is tense, fearful, angry etc. Breathing is one of the most directly accessible means for changing one state. Breath is the only autonomic function of the body that a certain degree of conscious control of is possible for everyone without any training. Anybody can hold their breath for a certain period of time. Almost anyone can choose to take a deeper breath then they normally take or slower breath or a faster breath. Breathing regulates our access to the most essential substance to our survival - air. We can go for weeks without food, days without water, but after 6 or 7 minutes with out air and you’re in serious trouble.
The skill of breathing at its most elaborate level has several factors: Depth and speed of breath; Length of time of holding the breath in and/or out; Rhythm; chest/abdominal respiration; Mouth/nose respiration: locks that determine where the breath is held. Mastery of this skill is the ability to set the breathing to a particular combination of these elements and maintain it indefinitely. Mastery also includes breathing that is spontaneously appropriate to any given need. This is the opposite of what is the case for most people. Also included is the knowledge and ability in a wide variety of patterns for various effects
The initial cultivation is simply learning to breath slowly, deeply and primarily abdominally; this along with learning to relax the exhale, neither pushing it, nor controlling it. A few basic patterns for various needs should also be learned (Circular Breathing, 3 fold (inhale, hold, exhale, all equal), 4 fold (inhale, hold, exhale, hold all equal), , alternate nostril breathing, and fire breathing are few ).
Great care needs to be taken in working with the breath. It is extremely powerful, and other then basic patterns, should only be explored under the guidance of a skilled teacher. Due to information age many breathing practices that where once secret are now available to anyone who can read. Many of these should not be undertaken with out skilled guidance. This warning is very sincere. The power of breath should not be underestimated or taken lightly.
This is the ability to choose how and on what you hold your attention. At their most fundamental level most alchemies, including most of the skill categories, are ways of holding attention in particular ways to get particular results. In that it is the basis for every other skill it can be considered the most functionally important. This includes ordinary concentration such as listening well, paying attention during a class or a business meeting and extraordinary concentration which is to concentrate on one thing to the exclusion of all other thoughts for a prolonged period of time.
The ordinary level of concentration is really a subset of presence in that if you are being present/mindful then you are focused on what is before you, although presence/mindfulness is something more.
Extraordinary concentration is actually a nearly superhuman feat. Anyone can actually develop it but it may be the hardest skill to develop. Yet it will yield unimaginable results. The benefit of developing this skill are too numerous to mention here but will greatly intensify the power of all the other skills, create a foundation for a much greater degree of freedom then most people imagine. Mastery of this extraordinary concentration is a form of what is called, in Sanskrit, samadhi. This state of extraordinary concentration is slightly different then what one uses for concentrating on a conversation, never the less development of extraordinary concentration will directly and powerfully impact ordinary concentration. So one develops them both by developing extraordinary concentration
There is no single skill that can contribute as much to the success of any endeavor as the ability to direct and hold you attention in accordance with intention.
This is in one sense a type of concentration in that it has to do with the way you hold your attention in an undistracted fashion. On the other hand it is completely the opposite of extraordinary concentration in that in extraordinary concentration you are narrowing your concentration to a single point and it is focused on an object (external or internal or process) while mindfulness/presence is expansive, all encompassing, and objectless. It is remaining completely undistracted in the moment with all your sense fields wide open but without fixating on any particular object.
There is also ordinary mindfulness and extraordinary mindfulness in this case however the term is slightly misleading because ordinary mindfulness is not very ordinary at all. Very few people posses it. Ordinary mindfulness is the power of extraordinary concentration combined with the interactive functionality of ordinary concentration and then expanded into objectlessness. Extraordinary mindfulness is also called resting in the natural state and is the fastest path to enlightenment for those capable of doing it. It is completely beyond the scope of this work and cannot be learned from a book or a tape or from anywhere other then someone who has himself or herself mastered it. The only reliable place I know to find such are the masters of Vajrayana Buddhism particularly the Nyingma and Kagyu schools.
Ordinary mindfulness is actually the main goal of extraordinary concentration. While extraordinary concentration does have many applications in various alchemies and state changes, it really fruits in its support of presence /mindfulness. One doesn’t, however, have to master extraordinary concentration to begin cultivating mindfulness. The primary method for cultivation mindfulness is meditation.
It would be useful to discuss the term meditation. Nearly all the primary skills have been described by someone or another as meditation, particularly concentration, relaxation, sensualization, certain aspects of state change and breathing. This isn’t necessarily wrong in that all of these can play a part in the cultivation of meditation but here mediation is primarily the process of gaining skill at presence and mindfulness.
Sensualization is divided into two parts, passive and active. The active component is the intentional generation of internal sense-scapes using any or all the senses. This is what is often called imagination or visualization but the ability should not be limited to the visual images. Included in this skill is a range that includes simple images to complex and changing to unchanging. The skill of concentration plays a key role in this. Contrary to what one might think simple static images are not necessarily easier to stay focused upon then complex and changing ones. A very simple image such as a black triangle on a white background while relatively easy to initially visualize, will be found extremely difficult to remain focused on and unchanging unless one has already cultivated the skill to do so. The image will bend, change color, set off a train of distracting thoughts such that even a few minutes of clear visualization of the image will be found nearly impossible. Additionally this is challenging due to the boredom factor.
The passive aspect of this skill is that of becoming aware of the continuous ongoing stream of internal sensory process. You are constantly creating an internal stream of sensory impressions all the time. One could say you are always dreaming at some level and that you merely have to tune into it. This passive internal sensory acuity has many uses most notably that of acquiring information from other then conscious parts or your mind. This includes information about health issues, life challenges, relationships, emotional wounds and blocks, creative solutions, poetry, artistic projects etc. This a powerful gateway to access ones connection to wisdom of the Visionary Heart
Mastery of the internal aspect of sensory acuity would be the ability to tune into ones internal sensory stream at will, with or without specific intention. It would also be the ability to easily create and maintain specific internal sensory objects, both complex and simple, static and changing/progressing and to maintain focus on these indefinitely.
The most fundamental starting place is the Alchemy called Sensory Streaming. This cultivates the passive skill most directly but will enhance the active skill by sharpening once internal sensory acuity. Everyone has the ability to imagine in all five senses, so it is just a matter of bring it into focus. Once in focus it becomes a matter of the power of focus and concentration to create the images you want.
Intentional State change
All of the primary skills are either themselves a specific state, facilitated by particular states, or cause particular states. Relaxation is a state and the skill of relaxation is the skill of creating that state. Breathing is a very direct way to change states in many different directions. Concentration/focused is a state based skill, Presence/mindfulness can be thought of as a state though at its fullest expression it transcends even being a state. The act of tuning into internal sensory data is a state. Accessing connection to Wisdom Guidance changes state. Somatics change states. Ones energetic character is a state. Sounds change states. Certain states facilitate integration and integration changes ones state. The inclusion of state change as its own skill is that it is important enough to be so numbered and because there are dimensions to state change not covered by the other skills.
There are two major categories of states ordinary and non-ordinary. The ordinary states include moods, emotional patterns, resourceful or unresourceful etc. non-ordinary include magickal and shamanic states, meditative states, hypnotic states and peak performance states
Mastery of state change is thus the ability to intentionally move from any state to any other state in the entire spectrum. It is also the ability to recognize state transitions when they occur spontaneously. The training to activate the Visionary Heart will go a long way in cultivating this mastery
Accessing Wisdom Guidance
At the relative level it is the development of consistent and reliable access to deep Wisdom, knowledge and understanding and to the source(s) of that wisdom. However you want to define that source is not initially of much relevance as long as you remain open to the contact with that source of wisdom transforming your understanding of it. At the initial level this is the development of intuition and inner communication.
It is primarily the skill of cultivating and maintaining integrity and congruence within ones sphere of manifestation. This is primarily executed through the emotional/energetic dimensions but is relevant to the mental and physical dimensions. Integration is how we clear up the static from our connection to wisdom that is generated by emotional wounds. It is the ability to be OK with what ever is at the moment
Relaxation, Breath and Presence are primary support skills to the skill of integration. Each of these in and of themselves can cause integration to occur but integration is its own skill that can be cultivated in conjunction with these other skills. One can find the knack of integrating things such that you can do it much more quickly then simply the result of the other skills. Mastery is the ability to integrate any emotion as it arises.
Somatics-Asana, posture, stillness, movement
This is a support skill primarily for concentration, state change and energy mastery. The most fundamental level of this skill is the ability to remain for long periods of time in a given posture without moving at all. This is particularly useful for cultivation extraordinary concentration and formal practice of mindfulness. The mind moves less when the body is still. At more elaborate levels holding the body in particular postures will have very powerful and specific effects in regards to energy and states. Also in regards to ordinary state changes, posture has a direct impact on ones state. The most Basic skill cultivation includes sitting still and working knowledge in regards to postures and ordinary states. Further cultivation includes yogic asanas for more radical state change, energy mastery and integration.
Exploring beyond this basic competence will require the development of a good deal of physical flexibility and stamina.
Also under this heading is movement. Moving the body in particular fashions will have particular effects. It might seem odd to include movement within the skill of stillness but movement is the natural extension of stillness. Authentic movement arises from within stillness. Also, it might be necessary for some to approach stillness through movement. This could be both in the form of quit movements such as Tai Chi, forms of Hatha Yoga, and Chi Kung, or it could be in the form of using vigorous spontaneous movement (such as Gabriel Roth’s 5 rhythms) to reach a place of stillness.
This is the ability to generate, direct and transform subtle energy. Part of this skill set is grounding. Also part of this skill set is quickly replenishing you personal energy reservoir. This is largely the combination of the skills of breathing, relaxation, concentration and sensualization with the addition of sound for some alchemies and some particular alchemies for the replenishing of energy
True mastery of this skill will yield a tremendous number of ordinary siddhis(seemingly magical or psychic powers) but such mastery would require at least mastery of extraordinary concentration, relaxation, breath and sensualization
Basic mastery is the ability to generate and direct energy to specific purposes such as healing and the ability to quickly restore ones own energy reserves.
Sonics is in some ways a subsidiary skill in that a very large number of alchemies make little or no use of sonics. Nevertheless there are a number that do and they can be quite powerful so it is included in the core skill set. Sound is primarily a means for actualizing other skills particularly state change, and energetics. In the sense that it is included in this set it is primarily concerning the use of the voice in way that can be either semantically meaningful or not. However the knowledge of the use of sound generated by other means such as musical instruments and electronically could be considered elaborations of this skill. This skill includes both knowing what sounds and how to make them. This also includes toning and invocation. With all of it elaborations this becomes a very complex, broad and far reaching skill rivaling breath in it’s number of variations and combinations. True mastery of sound would be skill at using it to a great number of effects of energy generation, direction, transformation, state change of both categories, integration, healing. It would include knowledge of a large number of “words of Power” and skill in weaving semantically meaningful words into powerful effect as in invocation.
As with Breath, caution should be exercised with the use of sound. Sound has the potential to radically alter you energy system and you state. This can be potentially dangerous for those unprepared including damage to you energy systems, (channels, meridians, chakra, nerves) The danger is perhaps a little less pronounced then with breath in that radical results with sound can usually only be achieved with training that should prepare you, and because less of the more powerful techniques have reached the public domain. None the less anything beyond basic training should be done under the supervision of a skilled guide. These warnings in regards to breath and sound are actually not much of a limitation in that profound results will result from even the basic skills. The results that the more advanced practices will bring lay completely outside the sphere of ordinary perception and will only be of interest to those who really want to explore the frontier of human capacity which itself is best done within the context of skilled guidance.