How to Deal with a Kundalini Awakening
For anyone familiar with the language of traditional Yoga and esoterism ––or else, for anyone who has been practicing Yoga for a while–– the words 'Kundalini Awakening' are probably not entirely unfamiliar.
Believed to be one of the main reasons why committed students of Yoga practice regularly ––to 'awaken (to) their Kundalini Shakti'–– the experience of Kundalini Awakening is not exclusive to this discipline, nor does it only happen to those familiar with Yoga and its scriptures.
In spite of their ubiquitous nature, however, Kundalini Awakenings remain covered in a great deal of mystery, sheltered from mainstream discussion by a cloud made of equal parts secrecy, romanticizing, and myth. To remedy this, this week's entry on the Acebe blog aims at making sense of this crisis of sorts; one that often occurs to those who are intensely seeking for answers, and for whom the longing for deeper meaning is honest and the desire for connection really strong.
What is a Kundalini Awakening?
To give a rather open, yet Yogic definition, we could say that Kundalini Awakenings are experiences in which the 'dormant' energy of Kundalini Shakti awakens either by conscious effort or unconscious 'luck' and begins its progressive or sudden journey upwards through Sushumna Nadi into Sahasrara Chakra. Kundalini Awakenings are, therefore, spiritual experiences in which the different levels or layers of our being (physical, mental, and spiritual) suddenly or progressively self-actualize.
Awakenings of this kind may happen on their own ––by virtue of some sort of biological/cosmological inner clock–– or as a result of methodical, continuous practice; and the goal such spiritually charged experiences pursue is to help us realize the actual non-dual nature of everything there is, otherwise referred to in many texts of the Vedanta tradition as universal Oneness.
In and of itself, Kundalini Awakenings ––or our awakening to the energy of Kundalini Shakti in us–– are a momentous experience, one where outside ('not me') and inside ('me') begin to collapse or even collapse fully, so that the boundaries separating I-ness and One-ness blur. For some, the experience is temporary; for others it's sustained in time; and by its very definition, this climatic experience signals the point at which a person is ready to reach spiritual maturity by shedding who they think they are, to finally realize that what they really are has nothing to do with anything one can label, think of, possess, or chase. This is, of course, an idea that many of us can grasp intellectually, yet very few of us get to ever be one with more than at the level of the brain. Awakening to Kundalini or Kundalini Awakenings throw us directly into the realm of experiencing ––of actual being–– so that, try as we may, all our habitual intellectualizing simply gets us nowhere.
A World(view) Shattering Experience
Often described as a world-shattering experience, people undergoing the kind of profound spiritual transformation that a Kundalini Awakening entails often find themselves helpless and clueless when it first happens, at odds with how to make sense of what is happening to them and how to best cope with it. Indeed, Kundalini Awakenings can often prove relatively mind-bending, inviting experiences that involve a plethora of energetic, physical, psychological and extra-sensorial phenomena that, to the rational mind, can simply be hard to accommodate. In their search for answers, people 'struggling' with the changes that an Awakening to Kundalini brings forth often resort to a great deal of materials (predominantly online materials, forums, and other references), that often demonize, romanticize, and misconstrue a highly personal experience. This is how a relatively common phenomenon has come to be seen as a sort of mystical, pseudo-ethereal, new-agey and even extraterrestrial fad. Needless to say, Kundalini Awakenings are not an extraterrestrial phenomenon, but rather very much a thing of this world here and now. The are not really world-shattering, inasmuch as they are worldview shattering. They happen to the best of us and are nothing but nature's own way of inviting balance back into lives that, at their core, have simply been out of balance for far too long. So, in a way, Kundalini Awakenings are sudden or progressive (re)memberings: the retracing and repiecing of a 'togetherness' we have simply been trained to forget.
Recomposing the Puzzle That's Me
This process of bringing balance back into our lives is filled with many a challenging moment and this is part of the reason why Kundalini Awakenings steer both curiosity and fear. The challenges come not only from how to make sense of something so apparently 'irrational' in such a rational world as ours, but also from dealing with bouts of psychological turmoil, physical manifestations of different kinds (movements, irrepressible needs and jerks, 'strange' sensorial phenomena of different kinds), or the surprised, even skeptical reaction of partners, family, colleagues or friends who can't just make sense of such experiences either... The expressions that a Kundalini Awakening can take are as diverse as we are, which accounts for the richness of examples one can find both in print and on the Internet and the variety of methods and ways to deal with all of it.
As Yoga teachers, we often end up hearing from students dealing with episodes of Awakening or currently undergoing the transformation, who are eager to share their feelings with a kind ear, particularly if they have some guidance to spare. However, making generalizations about this type of phenomenon defeats its purpose; so the one piece of advice we normally feel save to give is to find the way to give oneself the kind of space needed to recompose the pieces of 'the puzzle that was me.' A puzzle that is often completely disassembled by the Awakening experience and that can take quite some time to rearrange itself into an entirely new configuration, into a entirely new version of what we are. What's important to remember is that, there is no amount of 'working on it' that will get one faster 'out of it.' Kundalini Awakenings just simply don't work that way.
The more we rush its unfolding, suppress it, overindulge in it, try to intellectually comprehend it, or ignore it, the more it will end up showing its face in ways we'll find harder to surrender to; and surrendering to it is the name of the game. Indeed, all our reacting to it is nothing but an effort to control it, to understand it, to feel in control of the experience and its unfolding, instead of at the receiving end of it. Yet, what this experience asks of us is to surrender all control, yield to the unknown, trust the unfolding, as well as the need for us to experience whatever may come as a consequence of it. Thus the importance of taking the time to patiently integrate the changes.
Let go of Doubt, Abandon All Fear
Though the best known examples of famous Awakenings to Kundalini are those of instantaneous or sudden 'complete' awakenings ––as with the experiences of the Buddha, Swami Rama, Ram Dass, or Eckhart Tolle–– most people are 'blessed' with either occasional moments of Awakening at specific points of their life, or else a progressive, yet sustained unfolding of the Awakening process proper.
Sudden experiences have the highest potential to alter one's life more radically, since the integration process can be much more sudden too and therefore potentially more traumatic to the self. Occasional or sustained ones allow for greater integration periods, though as mentioned above, it all depends on how hard we fight with the logics of the process. Regardless of which one may unfold for us, if it ever comes down to it, the most important thing is to honor our own process; be kind and patient with our own inability to make sense of absolutely everything all the time; to find flexibility and space within us in those moments where the phenomena unfolding seem to threaten our own sanity; and to break free of everything that may stand on the way to full integration ––whatever that may be.
Any trace of fear, doubt, or insecurity we may feel in reaction to it comes precisely from the part of us we're trying to break free from. And if at any point in time we feel like its just too much for us to handle on our own, seek help. Talk to a friend, seek counsel, or professional help. All roads are valid in the road to re-integration, provided we are honest with ourselves.