Tuning into and diving into a previously inaccessible area (such as my lower spine) takes time and patience. It's like operating a metal detector while riding a unicycle, or a telescope on a galloping horse. Faint sensations need to be noticed and then concentrated upon, while being careful not to contract in the area of focus.
Concentration means ignoring a lot of stronger, more compelling areas of activity. It's okay to let those areas contract; we're trying to create a pocket of space where the new area can be perceived in a gradually more distinct or "audible" way. Again, the pocket of space is not a contraction; it's an opening, partially facilitated by resisting the other areas screaming for attention. Instead, what we're eventually after is a "condensation" of energy into the targeted area. I seek to become my lower spine.
In order to do this, I'm finding that there are many layers of what seems like a dark forest between where I am now and where I'm trying to go. Rather than contracting into this space, my aim is to relax into this space, gradually letting go of the resistance I feel to passing through the intervening areas, such as through my belly and into my back.
It's challenging to do this quietly. Both practice contexts are good: when I need to be quiet, and when it's okay to whimper or groan (because no one near me will be disturbed). When my wife gets up to go to the bathroom, my system often takes the opportunity to rapidly sink deeper and to belaboredly but successfully breathe through and into a deeper descent, which feels like breathing through a deep, narrow underground passage.
It's happening for sure, sometimes more successfully than others. It probably depends on which parts of my system are more awake and active. What was once inaccessible to me is now becoming more and more alive. As always, this is not just imagination. Imagining energy in my spine or having a thought of energy in my spine and trying to muster the feeling based on that picture—no, this doesn't work. Maybe I could get a more vivid picture, but still it's just a mental picture. Instead, I have to start with what is already there. And if I can't sense anything yet, I will probably need to be patient.