An article from the Book "Ascending Goddess: Kundalini Shakti" - by Ruth Angela Bailey © (2004)
Permission to use or reproduce any material in this document must be obtained from the author.
Neither of these actually conveys the full sense of the Kundalini. If one takes the time to look up the ancient yogic texts, their explanations are often more confusing and puzzling. Can such a phenomena be universal to the human species if so little is known about it, and it is not even a part of the vocabulary and understanding of most cultures? The answer is, "Yes." It is a universal phenomena and it is becoming more widely understood because the incidence of its awakening, though rare in the past, is becoming more and more common. The reasons for that lie outside the domain of this essay, but there are many texts now by writers such as Barbara Hand Clow, Barbara Marciniak, Ken Carey, and Neale Donald Walch that explain the awakening planet.
There are likely psychiatrists or psychologists right now trying to help patients with Kundalini awakening symptoms. Unfortunately, doctors that are trained in the traditional psychology field neither know what it is nor how to treat the phenomena. Thus hapless patients are being misdiagnosed, mismedicated and misunderstood. There may be young people experimenting with drugs, herbs and/or yoga who have awakened the kundalini and find their bodies or emotions out of control, manifesting strange heat surges and mysterious physical, emotional, spiritual or psychological explosions. Actually, there is no one symptom that defines kundalini awakening, but a complex of symptoms can be identified as pointing to the likelihood. Yet, judging by the number of people who write to me in despair, some of these symptoms can be upsetting and frightening accomplished psychologist or elevated yoga teacher. There are very few avenues available in Western culture of clear information about the phenomena of Kundalini awakening.
I offer this article to throw some light onto the subject. I have been deeply involved in understanding my own experience since 1979, and have had the wonderful and auspicious assistance of Muktananda and his successor Gurumayi. However, just like falling in love defies exact words, so does the experience of kundalini. It is an experience and thus can only be fully understood as a living experience. With this preamble, I trust that this article from my book may enlighten the reader, and I would be happy to answer your questions by email at the above address.
In the darkened room I felt floaty and noticed that the stress and tension in my stomach that had driven me to come here, had not occupied my mind at all. I noticed how very relaxed I felt. My body started to sway, and sometimes I felt a sort of jerk as if something readjusted in my muscles. My arms felt floaty, gradually feeling stranger in the lower arm, but I could not move them as I felt too relaxed.
After 30 minutes the tape stopped and there was silence. Everyone by now was in a very quiet and peaceful state. I remembered the instructions to repeat the same mantra syllables silently inside. I was aware then that my arms and hands were dead, like the blood had drained out of them. Gradually my fingers became rigid, stretched out in front as if pulled by an exterior force.
My breathing got faster and I had a realization that all the tension inside me was going to leave. The tension in my gut was bubbling up out of my mouth like air in water. The sensation was delicious. At the same time my head was naturally falling back in order for these bubbles to emerge. For a while it was amusing to feel these bubbles coming out of my mouth. But then I started to sob loudly. Somewhat embarrassed and self conscious, I blew my nose quietly trying to hide my problem in the darkened room. Then I sat cross-legged and toned the mantra "Om Namah Shivaya" again.
Suddenly my head was jerked back violently as if by a very strong tug from behind. My throat was thrust towards the ceiling and my head pressed farther back than I ever imagined possible, so that I wondered if my neck would break. I could barely breathe. At the same time my spine stiffened like a rod so I could not relieve the pressure on my head and neck. The force creating this was phenomenal and totally in control. I stayed rigidly locked in this position while the bubbles of tension continued to rise, bubbling out of my fish-like mouth, my chest heaving in deep sobs and tears pouring down my face.
Fixed in this position, sobbing out of control, I remained thus for at least 15 minutes. I could just see and feel my hands and their rigid, spread fingers receiving waves of blue electricity from in front of me. I seemed to be plugged into some enormous energy socket through my hands. I had no idea where it was coming from. Then just as quickly and unexpectedly the tension holding my neck released, and I curled up into a pile and unashamedly sobbed and sobbed. My social concerns had fled. All I knew was the incredible relief because the deep stress and tension I had had when I came had totally all gone. I felt warm and fuzzy through and through, my head reeling with a kind of euphoria and bliss.
After a while, when I was able to compose myself, Rob and Leah told me my "Kundalini" had been awakened. I had no idea what that meant, but I knew that I felt great. I was floating on air, feeling higher than a kite. It was later that I began to learn about what had occured to me. I had received Shaktipat from Muktananda, and my Kundalini had been awakened by being in a meditation center for Muktananda.
The awakening of Kundalini is a spiritual awakening, a major step towards realization of the divine. It is, in fact, a great boon, a great blessing and a magical gift. According to Swami Prajananda, "The main purpose of its awakening in a seeker is to enable him to attain Godhood" (Muktananda, Kundalini 9). Just after my awakening that night, I certainly knew something divine had happened to me. This bliss was to become the beginning of a transformation process that was very dramatic for the two years which followed; it continues to this day in a much more subtle manner.
It is apparent now according to Lee Sannella, a psychiatrist who has written a seminal work on what he calls "a form of psychospiritual energy" ( 8) the Kundalini Shakti, that is a "process of psychospiritual transformation" that is found in human beings all over the world "transcending personal and cultural differences" (23). I was participating in a universal human experience of transcendence. According to Sannella's research, Kundalini is integral to the teachings of "Tibetan Buddhism, Chinese Taoism," some "American Indian tribes, and ...even of the Bushmen of Africa." It was "most carefully studied and conceptually elaborated" in Hindu India (8).
Although the word Kundalini may appear strange for many readers and the concept of it even incomprehensible to the Western mind, in fact it is closer to each person than his own heart. Kundalini is closer than the breath in the body for it is the breather and the breath. In its dormant form it is the very essence of all life. It is the basic energy of all motion and activity. The coiled Kundalini lies dormant from birth at the base of the spine in every individual until one day it is awakened, then it ascends through the spinal column and the subtle nerve channels of the subtle body cleansing and clearing blockages as it rises towards the crown...where it merges with the energy of the higher Self. This connects the individual to the cosmic energy source so she is no longer an isolated, separated entity, but a conduit of the divine cosmic force.
In the awakened form, this uncoiled force becomes the Kundalini depicted in Indian scriptures both as a Goddess of immense power, often called "Kundalini Shakti," and as a snake or serpent. It is She who is the manifest universe, and when She wakens within an individual, She will sweep one up in Her tremendous passion to reunite with Her Lord, Shiva--the unmanifest --in order to dance once again in his arms. Thus begins a crazy, wonderful, unpredictable ride with Goddess where She rules the body, mind and soul as she ascends through the body to the crown of the head- the seat of Shiva.
The concept of a snake out of control in our bodies seems unsettling to our Western view. We are by our conditioning and training taught to fear snakes and abhor their very existence. Yet there is a familiar symbol of it in Western culture that exemplifies the Kundalini as it snakes through the body. The symbol for medicine and a common logo on ambulances is the caduceus, the rod with two snakes coiled around it in spirals. At the top are two wings on each side of an orb. Images of Mercury or Hermes show him with a caduceus in his hand. This is the symbol that Zechariah Sitchen identifies with the planet Marduk or Nibiru in his historical research " The Twelfth Planet." It is also claimed to be representative of the DNA double helix.
The caduceus has become in our current culture a symbol of healing, health and transformation which are the attributes so often found in individuals who have active Kundalini. Kundalini is the philosopher's stone, the alchemical formula of rejuvenation and healing. It is the DNA activator. It is the next stage of evolution for man. I believe it is man's hidden treasure that he lost when he "fell from grace" in the Garden of Eden. Now it is returning to this planet wakening beings to their full natures before the fall only even greater. It is the sacred tree of life. It is essentially however, the secret of realization of God, the divine essence within all beings.
The caduceus' central rod represents the central column akin to the spine in the physical body called "sushumna"(a Sanskrit word with no equivalent word in English). No surgeon will find this sushumna as it is part of the subtle body. Irving states the "kundalini process occurs in what is sometimes called the etheric,or subtle (nonphysical) body...comprised of nerve fibers not visible to the naked eye"(10).
In the manifest world, we all recognize the physical aspects of earth, water, air and fire. However, the fifth element, ether, is rarely identified with physical matter. In my estimate, it is the missing conduit between materiality and spirituality. The ether is where the true transformation takes place when Kundalini is awakened. The ether is the element of human experience which has been dormant and sleeping. When this awakening occurs, man becomes aware of all five of the elements of himself, he becomes whole and complete. Thus he can reach to and communicate with the cosmic energies and access his full dimensional self. That is, man is not just one body, nor one soul, but a part of a multi-dimensional domain of existence encompassing not only this universe but many other universes and on into infinity... the full extent of the expanse of the divine becomes man's playground. A full human has unlimited capacity. The human being with Kundalini awakened is an unconquerable force unto the entire cosmic universe. The return of the Kundalini, the full force of life to her being is the signal that her limited days are over. Truly it is an awakening from a deep slumber of misery, fear and confusion.
The sushumna, our caduceus' rod, parallels the spinal column from the base of the body to the base of the skull. Just as the spinal column is a hollow structure that protects the spinal cord of the central nervous system, so the sushumna is a hollow structure that offers an ascending tube for the Kundalini. It can be seen on the etheric like unto lightning, brilliant liquid inside the subtle channels of the body. The sushumna is identified with the planet Mercury and the qualities of liquid mercury, quicksilver, and volatility.
People who meditate, yogis, mystics, awakened masters and those who study the Oriental martial arts based upon Chi or Ki, are able to see this light. The great yoga masters were able to assist their "chelas." disciples, with the ascent of the Kundalini because they could see where it was blocked or stuck, and send their own psychic power to aid in releasing it. The ascent of the liquid light is not always simple or smooth. As my first experience attests, my head was forced back very sharply in order to release my blocks, which were about my ignorance as to my true nature and my concepts of who I thought I was. The Kundalini clears out blocks in every aspect mental, emotional, physical, psychological etc. Everything is on the line for review and cleansing. Although there are tremendous rewards in the spiritual realm with blissful ecstacies for long periods of time, for many persons such cleansing can be akin to "hell." This awakening can be life-altering, shattering, awesome and devastating to many people who have constructed a concept of who they are that is based on lies or denial. Kundalini will wipe it away and replace it with love, truth, and divine understanding. Thus the importance of an enlightened master during this experience who can keep a balance for the individual as he is tranformed into a "true human being."
The caduceus' has two snake-like tubes, which spiral three and a half times each around the central rod, and meet and cross at the sushumna in their ascent. They represent two side channels of the flow of the awakened Kundalini energy, called "ida" and "pingala" (no EngIish equivalent). The channel, ida, is identified with the left side, negatively charged, feminine side of the body, ending above the right nostril and has characteristics of coolness related to the moon; whereas, pingala, is identified with the right side, positively charged, masculine side and ends above the left nostril and has characteristics of heat related to the sun (Avalon 110-112).
The two channels are also seen as connected to the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems which enervate the organs of the body (Beattie, "Alchemy" 27-29), and they also have a connectionto the breath (Muktananda,Kundalini 28). When the Kundalini rises through only one of these channels and not through both, madnesscan easily result. The story of Gopi Krishna in his autobiography "Living with Kundalini" is grim testimony to this painful experience. His awakening Kundalini travelled only through the pingala, the fire channel, in its ascent, causing him to suffer interminably. It was only when,. after enormous suffering, he was able to open the ida channel, the cooling side, that he was restored physically and mentally.
According to Muktananda, the Kundalini has two aspects: one manifests the world as we know it, the outer form or physical and is pervasive. In China they call this outer cosmic energy, Chi, in Japan Ki, in India it is Prana, and the nearest to it in the West is Holy Spirit (Muktandanda, Kundalini 13). We have a limited form of Kundalini energy running through our bodies the moment we are conceived or we should not be able to move our bodies or live - it is indeed the "life force." It is this outer energy we see in the energetic meridians that are used in acupuncture. It is this energy that pervades and enervates the world as we see it.
The hidden, or inner form of Kundalini is usually asleep in a small "bulb" of energy that is stored at the base of the spine. According to Bonnie Greenwell, (Energies of Transformation): "..after Kundalini enters the fetus and activates the pranic system the residual energy coils three and a half times at the base of the spine, and goes into a dormant state. The mind becomes engaged in the process of living, and we identify with our bodies, our genetic heritage and our mental, sensate and emotional processes,separating from any awareness of the Self, or the Soul or the source of our existence, however one wishes to identify it. "(22) So the spiraling snakes around the Caduceus rod curl three and a half times until reaching the top orb, just as the wondrous light of Kundalini uncurls three and a half times before reaching the nose. There the snake like light merges into the third eye behind the eyebrows and merges through the pineal gland with cosmic forces. Then the Goddess Kundalini merges with her Lord. Then the fallen man become a human being, fully connected once more to the cosmic tones and harmonies. It is a time of joyous celebration.
When the inner Kundalini is awake it turns us inward to our soul and to our source - the Divine. It offers an opportunity to uncover who we are, where we come from and where our home is. It is "the beginning of the spiritual journey" that enables us to "experience the inner, spiritual world" (Muktandanda, Kundalini 8). As Gopi Krishna, the foremost writer on the subject, states:
"There is a mechanism in the human body--psycho physiological mechanism, known as kundalini, which is the source from which inspiration, revelation and psychic gifts originate. Every person who is psychic, a genius, or an enlightened sage, has an awakened kundalini to a greater or lesser extent" (Irving 179).
It is apparent then that some persons would seek this experience, whereas other might shun it. Yet how this awakening takes place is mysterious. According to Muktananda, the most frequent place of awakening is the base or root of the spine (18). As the inner Kundalini is awakened, it uncoils and ascends like a snake, so that is why often it is called "serpent power." This bulb of Kundalini energy can be awakened through intense devotion to God, repetition of mantra and various yogic practices and, in my case, shaktipat, the Guru's touch (Muktananda, Kundalini 18).
So as I sat in that meditation center a happy confluence of circumstances occured to give me this awakening. I was karmically ready, and I had reached a state of "inner maturation," I was chanting a mantra, a classic device for bringing the two sides of the brain into alignment, and I was in a meditation center where Muktananda's teachings were put into practice and his spirit was invoked. It was Friday, July 13, 1979, always my lucky number! I was ready for initiation by a realized being into the realms of my inner and higher self. Muktananda explains initiation thus:
"The tradition of initiation exists in every path and in every sect. However, the true initiation is Shaktipat, the inner awakening by which the disciple can have a super conscious vision of the Absolute, and through which, in time, he comes to experience his identity with God. "(19)
Swami Vishnu Tirtha says that Shaktipat is "the process of spiritualizing a man with the charge of psychic force....not to be confused with mesmerism or hypnotism" because it is "everlasting and elevating" (77). I was so very fortunate to be the recipient of shaktipat by Swami Muktananda, a "Satguru" from India who toured the United States and the world in the 70's. No more would I be creating karma, and spinning on the wheel of constant incarnations. Swami Vishnu Tirtha explains the awakening Kundalini as the "dynamic life-principle" that is the true evolution of man. Until awakening, man is in a state of involution, rather than evolution. He views involution as a static process of reincarnating again and again where there is gradual psychological development. The true meaning of evolution for him is when man is transmuted into his full God self (26).
When the Kundalini awakens it is a dramatic transformational force, a white, quicksilver, fluid light that flows through the nadis, nerve channels of the body, rising up from the base of the spine through the sushumna and spinning chakras or energy centers as it rises. Those who are very sensitive can actually feel and even see the light force rising in the body. At times the experience is blissful and erotic, at other times it can bring up latent anger or rage. The chakras are intersections, like relay stations, which control the nerves in their respective sections of the body and each have psychologically distinctive characteristics. Major chakras control the nerves related to the five different svadhistana, (3) lumbar- manipura, (4) dorsal - anahata and (5) cervical vishuddha (Avalon 104). Above the throat chakra, vishuddha, is the ajna chakra at the third eye, or point between the eyebrows, and the sahasrara at the crown of the head.
There are seven clearly defined chakras in most diagrams of the chakra system although there are other minor ones and some outside of the body. Each lower chakra forms a portal to energies of the next highest one. Barbara Ann Brennan in "Hands of Light" includes clear visual diagrams of where the chakras are located, what they look like, their colors, and a good description of how they operate pyschologically.
As the mercurial fluid of light spins these chakra wheels in the body it cleans out the old impressions (samskaras) of past lives, the Kundalini ascends the sushumna, creating varying experiences of past and present life traumas.
"Within the sushumna is a subtle nadi called chitrini which is the channel for the movement of the Kundalini.... Whatever thoughts one has come from this central nadi, and all one's karmas and impressions from many lives are lodged here". (Muktananda, Kundalini 29).
Thus this cleansing, divine light snakes its way up through the subtle nerve threads of the body and expels the darkness of the past, unknotting any traumas that are caught in the memory of the body, so that a person ceases to be limited by past lives, present life traumas or old thought forms. The Kundalini expels the ghouls and fears of the subconscious, as past life agonies and griefs appear briefly, taking a last turn on the stage of opposites before the Kundalini transmutes them into light. It is an opportunity to become new or reborn. The gift the genie gave to the student in Grimm's Fairy Tale of changing iron into silver is this ability to change the sorrow and evil of past existences into light and transcendence. It is the philosopher's stone, the alchemical process in man.
It would appear to be an event for celebration. However, the nature of the cleansing process creates strange behavior that might make the person weep and laugh within minutes, might make him leap over a tall fence, go spinning wildly to unknown music, or leave his comfortable life for the forest; the newly awakened person can appear insane to others. We see shadows of this behavior in puberty and later at middle age. Where the Kundalini energy encounters a "block" (a resistance to flow) strange body movements or emotions called "kriyas "occur . It is these kriyas which cause most of the problems of the awakening, and are the reason a guide is recommended.
The awakened soul needs a guide who himself has travelled the same road and emerged out of it to the state of advancement. This is no path for the unaided. The progress of the ascent can be self-modulated to some extent, but when the enthusiasm for transcendence is intense, sometimes the cleansing experiences come too fast. This then becomes a "spiritual emergency," a crisis of overload: too much, too fast. The logical mind and other parts of the personality cannot process the experience, and fall into a state of confusion which ends up at a hospital. Sometimes latent past life illnesses manifest for short cleansing periods only to disappear permanently from the subtle body. The experienced guide can explain this and ease anxiety. Unfortunately, the process can be gravely misunderstood both by the person experiencing it and caretakers. This is where doctors of the mind are often enlisted who may have no idea what is causing the problem and will over prescribe medications. The Stanislav Grofs have developed something call the Spiritual Emergence Network (see web site for more data) which can assist persons going through traumas of this nature.
Other problems can be caused when the person raises Kundalini accidentally, such as in childbirth. The Kundalini may rise through the wrong channels. It may rise not through the sushumna, but through either the pingala or the ida channels creating imbalances in the person experiencing these. An account of such an event can be found in Gopi Krishna's biography, "Living with Kundalini." As he so clearly recounts, there is no one to ask for help. No one can understand the incredible pain and confusion which can take place as the constructs of the ego, the defences and conditionings are burned away. For no person is the ascent easy since all the latent fears, agonies, hatreds and such of all ones' past lives are caught in our tissues and these will be eased out by this flowing light (Kundalini) in order that one become"new"~ literally reborn. Swami Muktananda gives very dramatic evidence of his awakening process in "Play of Consciousness." Gopi Krishna has harrowing accounts of his experience as have many others.
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