Many years ago I started my journey, a dramatic and intriguing inner and outer journey to the experience of kundalini awakening and the process which unfolds once that strong inner spiritual energy is ignited.
The Awakening of Kundalini
It was my great good fortune to get shaktipat initiation (the awakening of kundalini) from Swami Muktananda who had been the accomplished Master of the Siddha Yoga lineage at that moment. I say it was my great good luck because, within this tradition, not only is the initiation given, but the crucial teachings for understanding the stirring and the spiritual experiences and process that unfolds as a result of it are publicly and freely given.
I soon realized, through my own internal experience and the experiences of others around me that had received shaktipat, this divine internal energy not only has the capacity to give one the greatest of mystical experiences, but is also a supreme healer. In her aim to take the seeker into the realization of oneness with Supreme Consciousness, she has to assist us to eliminate our internal hurdles on the physical, psychological, emotional, psychic and spiritual levels. As with any growth and recovery process, being confronted with barriers, constraints, negative emotions, negative tendencies and past difficult experiences and unresolved problems, can be difficult and at times frightening.
When coupled with intense, spontaneous encounters of energy moving in ways that an individual has no previous training, knowledge or comprehension of, it may be overwhelming, causing the person to seek support from clergy, religious advisors, mental health practitioners and holistic practitioners-many of whom are lacking in the essential experience and knowledge to offer sufficient support, and some of whom might actually misdiagnose the person’s expertise, tagging it pathological. Thus it is very important that anyone providing support to people with awakened kundalini have knowledge and expertise of the kundalini process across religious cultures.
Energetic Paradigms Across Traditions
There are various names for the kundalini across religious traditions. Some are: the Tibetan Buddhist tummo, or inner flame, the Chrisitian Holy Spirity, the Chinese Martial Arts and Healing Arts Chi, and the num of African tribal dancers and healers.
When one explores the mysterious texts, poetry and philosophical material of an assortment of traditions experiential paradigms emerge describing the stirring and movement of the transforming inner power. The most articulated system is that the Chakra/Nadi system which appears in Yoga, Tibetan Buddhism and Sufism. In this system the kundalini is awakened and moves upward through the central channel or sushumna, piercing the chakras or energy centers in the delicate, energy body. In the process of going through the chakras the kundalini releases an assortment of physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual and psychic experiences.
Across the Yoga, Tibetan Buddhist and Sufi traditions the words can differ in describing the paradigm, but they’re essentially the same. The Christian system is not as fully articulated, but is hinted at in the Book of Revelations as John, after getting the awakening of the Holy Spirit from Jesus, later experiences a series of mystical fantasies. In one of them he’s shown that the seven seals and the seven spirits of God who preside over them. Each seal represents a degree of revelation or consciousness. In Kabbalah, the mystical path of Judaism, there is an elaborate system of the Tree of Life and the sefiroth. Mention is also made of the 7 heavens and the Hebrew sounds or letters used to reach them. In the Native American tradition, the Hopi Creation Story describes vibrational centers which operate along the axis or spinal column. These five centers can be found beneath the navel, in the heart, the throat, just below the surface of the head and on peak of this head-a system quite like the chakra system. A clay artifact found by archeologists from the mounds of the early Cahokian tribes that lived across the Mississsippi River in what is now the state of Illinois, reveals a berger lady seated on an uncoiling serpent. The serpent rises like a vine up the middle of her back, along which are placed several gourds.
The uncoiling serpent is, in the traditions of Yoga, a sign of the awakening kundalini, or serpent power. The ancient Druids of what is now England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland had a method of cauldrons. The cauldron of heating system located in the navel area includes an interior flame, the cauldron of fire, which can be situated in its center. The Druids would meditate on the cauldron of fire to wake it. Once awakened, the religious power, fanned by the breath, climbs, igniting the cauldron of vocation in the center area. Through the intense desire and longing which emerges in the cauldron of vocation, the heat is carried upward opening the cauldron of Knowledge on peak of the mind, opening the Master druid to getting divine inspiration, knowledge and truth from the world. There’s an interesting parallel that appears to have traveled out of the ancient Druid system to the Knights Templar and back to Scotland and the creation of the Freemasons. Leadbeater explains the connection between the first three levels of Free Masonry and the chakra/nadi system, but may well have also revealed the link to the ancient Druid system of cauldrons.
Spiritual Awakening- the Experience
The traditional yogic experience of kundalini awakening through shaktipat initiation that’s described in the teachings of Kashmir Shaivism is readily seen in the Siddha Yoga experience. In 1979 I started the process of exploring this adventure for my doctoral dissertation on kundalini awakening and human evolution. The research was a qualitative and concept discovering version completed in 1984. Six Siddha Yoga professionals with three or more years of regular religious practice were interviewed extensively about their experience of shaktipat and their consequent ongoing transformation. Qualitative analysis of the experiences and changes in awareness beginning with their search for spiritual consciousness, their shaktipat initiation and the effect of kundalini awakening and spiritual practice in their experience of altered states, emotional /self concept, physical and health experiences, values, and lifestyle were done. All 5 subjects experienced traditional shaktipat experiences of such matters as energy climbing, lights, visions, waves of bliss and love, unity consciousness, and spontaneous bodily movements in meditation.
Over time subjects experienced the following:
- Energy throbbing from the chakras
- Spontaneous pranayama (yogic breathing)
- Spontaneous hatha yoga postures
- Spontaneous weeping, spontaneous eruptions of sounds-animal and other
- The brain becoming empty
- The Siddha Meditation mantra spontaneously welling up inside
- Waves of bliss
- Hearing inner noises (celestial voices, roaring of energy)
- Loss of body consciousness
- Energy coursing through the spinal column or different areas of the body
- Altered visual senses
- Heaviness or lightness of body
- Feeling life passing out
- Constant awareness of energy vibrating inside the body
- Spontaneous singing in unknown foreign languages
- Spontaneous involuntary creation of poems and songs Divine visions
- Spontaneous deep comprehension of scriptural teachings
- Experiences of the Inner Self
- Spontaneous adventures of being charged with energy in the early morning and early evening hours (sunrise and sunset)
- Many more adventures and groups of expertise of kundalini awakening and unfolding are clarified in this study.
From the stand point of the seeker and encourage givers it’s important to recognize that each of the experiences described here are ordinary kundalini experiences which aren’t only recorded in this study, but also described in these texts as Devatmi Shakti and experienced by tens of thousands of people on the Siddha Yoga path and other avenues where the aim is to attain God realization through the awakening of the kundalini.
Evidence of these experiences is observed on the Sufi path in Irina Tweedie’s autobiography, Chasm of Fire. Here she describes receiving initiation from her Sufi Master, along with the dramatic adventures of the unfolding of the kundalini. The great Sufi mystic and poet, Rumi, describes the internal experience of the kundalini in his poem “Song of the Reed”:
“This flute is played with passion, not with end;
And with no fire you wouldn’t exist.
It’s the passion of love that inspires the flute….
It’s the ferment of love that completes the wine.
The reed is a comfort to all estranged lovers.
Its music rips our veils away. (1981, p.19)”
In Christianity the stirring originally happened when Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit to his disciples. This procedure of the Master breathing spiritual energy to the disciple also appears in the texts of Kashmir Shaivism as one of the traditional procedures of awakening the kundalini. After Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit to his disciples they start to get an assortment of religious experiences including visions and talking in tongues.
In the Book of Revelations, John describes a series of mystical fantasies. He sees the seven seals within which are the seven spiritus of God who are the guardians of the seals. Then he sees the fifth angel of God ascending with the dwelling seal of God sealing the servants of God in their foreheads-one of the standard points of awakening the kundalini. Molotov, a disciple of the Russian Orthodox mon, St. Serafim, pleads with him to help him understand how he’ll know and understand the experience of the Holy Spirit. St. Serafim prays to God to provide Molotov the experience of the Holy Spirit and both are engulfed in light so intense that Molotov cannot appear at St. Serafim stating that the light flashing from his eyes and face is too dazzling also look at. When St.. Serafim convinces him to look at him Molotov starts to have the love, warmth and peace of the Holy Spirit both inside himself and all around him and St. Serafim. In the texts of Kashmir Shaivism two of the traditional ways that a Master awakens the kundalini are through thought and through looking into the eyes of the disciple. Although these methods aren’t clearly articulated on the Christian course, one sees signs of both from the adventure of Molotov and St. Serafim.
In the Native American Lakota tradition, Archie Fire Lame Deer, in his autobiography, Gift of Power, the Life and Teachings of a Lakota Medicine Man, vividly describes the experience of his father energetically passing his power and knowledge hours before his departure. He states that now he went into an entirely different religious dimension and really became a medicine man.
In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition there is the tummo, or internal flame tantric practice for awakening the kundalini. Geshe Gyatso, in his publication Clear Light of Bliss, describes the complex practices and the traditional adventures of state of consciousness which are achieved as the internal fire is directed up through the chakras to the crown chakra where a “fall” of bliss is published, then headed downward through the chakras, and then back up in the opposite order until the fall merges again at the crown chakra carrying the practitioner to the state of enlightenment.
In the early Druid tradition the powems of Nede Mac Adme, and Amairgen, interpreted by from early Irish Druid texts by Caitlin Matthews, describe the adventures of the cauldrons of heating system, vocation and comprehension. In the poems of the ancient druids and in tales of dialogue between the Master Druid Nede mac Adne, it’s implied that only the Master Druid encounters the entire awakening when initiated by a Master who has attained the highest state of Druidic knowledge. That knowledge is only attained through the tipping up of this cauldron of knowledge to get divine inspiration and knowledge from higher consciousness.
Some Considerations In Providing Support
An experiential comprehension of spiritual awakening and the unfolding of the kundalini is vital in providing support to those who seek it. Charles Tart’s now classic statement about research on change states applies to providing support to people experiencing kundalini awakening and the myriad altered states and life changing experiences that follow. In doing research it’s difficult, if not impossible to research varied states of consciousness in case you haven’t experienced them yourself. It’s hard to guide and encourage someone through their experience of awakening and unfolding of kundalini in case you haven’t experienced it yourself. The awakened kundalini is a fully conscious and intelligent force which may steer you in both your process and in the process of encouraging others. It is important to see that the awakened kundalini’s function and purpose is to purify and enhance all dimensions of our experience- physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual and psychic – and ultimately bring us to the state of oneness with God. One glimpse of the oneness unleashes a flood of energy which spirals through whatever is between us and that prolonged experience of our Divine Self. When this occurs one’s internal procedure of clearing obstacles, gaining new understandings of self, of enlarged spiritual dimensions and of bodily healing may get so accelerated that one becomes overwhelmed and encounters emotional, physical and spiritual catastrophe. Without a paradigm for understanding kundalini awakening and the procedure for this undfolding of kundalini, the experience can be extremely confusing both to the seeker and those that are providing support.
The unfolding of kundalini through the chakras and nadis isn’t a linear procedure. To put it differently, the kundalini doesn’t clear the impressions held at the chakras, or lively facilities one at a time. Nor does it move from the lower chakras to the higher ones in linear sequence, clearing each before it moves to the next. The kundalini spirals through layers of topics, religious experiences, memories and trends contained inside the chakras and the energetic body, moving back and forth with an intellect that’s often awesome to behold. When one considers the procedure that one experiences in psychotherapy, or in recovery, without the awakened kundalini one sees a similar pattern. Issues surface, are worked through and subside, only to resurface from a deeper degree at a later period, often triggered by life events, or inner work that should be done in order to strengthen us to go to the next level of transformation. All of us, in our personal development work, peel off the layers of a problem slowly, as we’re prepared, returning to the problem to proceed to the next level of settlement once we are ready. When the awakened kundalini becomes a part of the growth process the procedure is intensified and quicken. When this intensified personal procedure is combined with the basic kundalini experiences mentioned before both the uneducated seeker and the uneducated supporter run the risk of misdiagnosing the encounter and confusing that the individual more. Spiritual dreams and lively sensations can be misdiagnosed as hallucinations. Involuntary bodily movements and viewing of lights can be misdiagnosed as neurological disorders. Racing thoughts, changes in visual perception and rapid experiences of bliss and sadness can all be conveniently inserted into a range of psychological disorders. Where ailments of a physical or psychological nature have been previously diagnosed evaluation becomes even more complex when someone experiences the stirring of kundalini, as the crises precipitated by the awakening demand considerable knowledge of the kundalini process and the disorders previously diagnosed to be able to successfully guide the person on their journey to health and to transcendence.
Spiritual Masters, religious advisors and clergy, mental health professionals and holistic professionals may all play substantial roles in supporting individuals experiencing extreme kundalini awakening. Each has a possible role to play. Perhaps the main role is that of the Spiritual Master. In the event of kundalini awakening this Master has to be a genuine guru, one with the capacity to wake up, control and direct the unfolding of the kundalini. It’s the part of such a professional to do exactly that for people who come to him or her for religious teaching. This type of professional also provides time honored teachings from scriptures offering advice to the student in understanding the process and the practices that encourage the unfolding of the kundalini. The sankalpa or intention of this type of genius can immediately awaken the kundalini, modulate its own intensity and direct the process of the unfolding of the kundalini in a means that’s suited to each individual pupil. I’ve experienced this power many times throughout the course of my journey on the Siddha Yoga path, beginning with the initiation that awakened my inner kundalini and going through many intense experiences of the motion of that kundalini. Among the most amusing experiences occurred in the Siddha Yoga ashram in Ganeshpuri, India. This was early in my experience of the basic kundalini experiences described in Devatma Shakti, and afterwards in my dissertation. I started to have roaring kriyas, in other words, I’d spontaneously, without control over this, start roaring like a lion. This experience continued to intensify. I would start to hear the roaring internally and understand that I had to run to somewhere where I wouldn’t disturb other pupils who had been meditating or chanting. The roaring seemed to be triggered most intensely by the chant they we did every evening in the ashram, so I stopped going to the chant and could sit on the roof of the dormitory building, the roaring starting with the first verse of the chant. At the moment, Baba Mukatananda then said”Everyone has to come to the chant.” He would send people around to make sure everybody was coming. So…I had to go to the chant. I sat back close to the exit to be able to escape immediately once the roaring began to overpower me. I could hear it, was holding back and chanting, but there was no holding it . The shakti was in control and the roaring was errupting, so I jumped up and ran for the exit, only to be met by an ashram security man who insisted I sit down. When I explained what was happening that he sent me to the hallway adjoining the courtyard where we had been chanting. The roaring erupted and the hallway, with window open into the courtyard, acted like a megaphone sending the roaring out to the courtyard where Muktananda sat with each the students, chanting. Suddenly, I heard him laughing inside me, and then he called me by my religious name and said, still laughing,”Now, now, be silent.” Instantly, the roaring stopped and the kundalini shakti chose up my body and I started dancing , classic mudras forming with my palms. From this bliss welled up in my and my body started to whirl like a dervish. I realized as these gorgeous movements of the shakti unfolded that Baba Muktananda had just directed the kundalini to proceed quietly and blissfully, instead of roaringly! Many times since then when sitting in meditation intensives that became noisy with animal sounds, spontaneous singing and other sounds I would hear either Baba Muktananda, or afterwards Gurumayi Chidvilasananda simply softly say “Quiet now”, and the whole hall could become very still and silent as participants could be plunged in the deepest conditions if meditation. When offering support to people undergoing extreme kundalini awakening, it’s often useful to send them into a Master with the capability to regulate the intensity of the experience, especially if the person has had a spontaneous awakening without the advantage of a Master’s advice. When this isn’t possible simply invoking the help of such a Master may also be helpful. Studying with such a Master may also deepen one’s own internal experience of the kundalini and the Divine Self, providing inspiration and understanding in the work of encouraging others.
Spiritual advisors and clergy have a particular role in counselling and educating others as they pursue their religious path. They haven’t reached the degree of Master or Guru, but can have a whole lot of inner experience and understanding of the kundalini process as well as the spiritual disciplines and functional daily strategies and methods for integrating the experience into one’s life. In religious advisors and clergy to be useful in supporting the seeker who’s experiencing an extreme awakening and unfolding procedure, they have to have experience and understanding of the procedure. Throughout history there are instances of great saints that were seen as either heretics or mad by the clergy of the customs, since the clergy had no comprehension of spiritual awakening and the traditional mystical experiences that accompany it. For people who have limited knowledge it’s necessary to seek out those with the wisdom and understanding and refer seekers to them.
Mental health professionals may be enormous support to those people that are experiencing kundalini awakening and unfolding, if they’re transpersonally oriented and possess experiential in addition to traditional understanding of the kundalini process. It’s just as important for mental health professionals to develop cross cultural competencies and understandings of the common truths, practices and understandings across avenues when trying to give counseling and support. Additionally it is critical to have an openness to questioning one’s identification of emotional disorders when working with people with awakened kundalini. Asking questions about religious practice and expertise has to be a normal part of the assessment procedure. Typically if you do not ask about religious experiences the customer won’t share themfor fear of being thought to be hallucinating, or just to be”weird”. Not every person who needs support with religious awakening can recognize and request that support. Without the benefit of a religious path which offers a paradigm and normalization of the experience of awakening and the transformation process which happens after awakening, many people present with what they’re assuming are psychological crises, or complete confusion about what has begun to occur to them. It’s essential to have the ability to spot the stirring experience and the”symptoms” that follow it and then bring the psychological and psychological responses to the into perspective, before assigning a DSM diagnosis! In some rather complicated circumstances, both exist. There might be a clear psychiatric diagnosis and a definite experience of spiritual awakening. In such instances, the job becomes one of finding a balance in coping with the psychiatric symptoms and the religious experiences in a manner that contributes to healing and spiritual development.
Holistic practitioners can provide much support to people experiencing kundalini awakening and unfolding, providing they possess the knowledge and expertise of the procedure themselves. Some holistic practices that can provide essential supports are energy healing, acupuncture, massage, chiropractic, hatha yoga, Tai Chi, nutritional counselling. Any professionals working in the energetic field of somebody having an awakened kundalini must proceed with great care and sensitivity so as to not interfere with the work of the kundalini, or intensify an already intense encounter. What one does as an energy healer has to be in cooperation with the kundalini. This implies, softly follow her lead. This is also true of hatha yoga and Tai Chi practice. Hatha Yoga practice was initially developed as a way to purify the body and prepared it for awakening of the kundalini, thus a number of the asanas and pranayama practices can actually enhance the kundalini experience, especially in the early years of their experience once the approach is the most intense. The asanas and pranayama techniques are intended to clean the nadis or subtle energy channels of the body. Individuals with awakened kundalini should be cautioned to know about the ability of those practices and to monitor themselves to determine if they’re generating more intensity or balancing out the intensity for them. Nutritional counselors will need to know about the foods which cool the kundalini down, i.e. sweets, milk products, and leave them in the diet. Often when the kundalini awakens one starts to pull spontaneously from meat, poultry and fish and proceed to a vegetarian diet. Lighter, easily digestible foods are more harmonious with the kundalini process and might actually alleviate the purification procedure and physical symptoms substantially. One must also caution the person to be certain you consume, as the digestive process really draws the shakti to it and occasionally can help to alleviate the intensity of the procedure.