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Podcast – What is Kundalini?

Yesterday I filmed a short podcast looking at the question: “What is kundalini?”. I talk a bit about my own experiences over the years, and about how we can manage an awakening effectively.

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So, one of the things that a lot of people are interested in these days is kundalini, or kundalini awakening. So, this is something that we start seeing mentioned in the classical Vedic texts, around 500 BCE. It becomes much more relevant in the Tantric period, from around the 7th century AD onwards. And today it is still a very relevant aspect of the process of yoga, and spiritual awakening in general. So, this is a process that is described as an energetic awakening or energetic spiritual transformation. It’s actually described as being two forces, or having two directions of movement, one that comes from below, rising upwards, and one that descends from above. And these two energies, or flows of prana are said to merge together, first of all in the crown at the top of the head, and then later on, in the heart and everywhere in the body and beyond the body.

So, I first experienced kundalini just over 30 years ago. I was about 21 years old at the time. I had been engaged in spiritual practices already, but had not actually done any practices for around 8-months. One day, I was lying down on my bed at home, relaxing. It was a beautiful day and the sun was setting. The rays of the sun shone right in through the window and lit up the walls of the room. I remember feeling very peaceful and filled with joy. I noticed a spark of light which started in the middle of my pelvis, and then the light moved up through the centre of my body, and it moved up to the centre of my head. When it reached the middle of my head, it exploded, and as it exploded, I was flooded with ecstasy. The experience didn’t last very long. The movement of the spark of light lasted maybe even less than a second, and the explosion in my head lasted less than a second. And the sensation of being flooded with ecstasy lasted for maybe 30-seconds, or a minute, and then gradually faded.

And so, I remember being surprised at two things. The first was at being able to see inside my body. The spark of light was inside my body, so I had not seen it with my physical eyes. I saw it with my inner vision. And then the other thing that surprised me, was being put into an ecstatic state without any apparent cause, other than this light. Then the experience disappeared just as quickly as it came, but it wasn’t actually over. It was actually just the beginning of a long process of spiritual transformation that lasted for many years.

So, what happened after that, was that my body gradually began purifying itself. This is a difficult thing to describe because this was happening mostly on an energetic level, rather than a physical level. What was happening was that the energetic channels in my body were being purified. One of the first symptoms I had was shaking. This didn’t start till several months after the initial experience. My body would shake at times when I was still, and calm, and concentrated. So, for example, if I was riding on a bus, and concentrating on the road ahead, my body would shake slightly. This is something called automatic kriyas, or automatic yogas.

And then gradually over the years, other things started happening. One of these things was the opening of the heart chakra, for example. I began experiencing happiness and joy for no reason, or the experience of love coming for no reason. This was accompanied by the experience of the front of the chest opening wide, like two doors. I experienced the opening of the manipura chakra and began to be able to feel what other people are feeling. I could feel other people’s emotions, as if they were happening in my own body. I experienced the opening of the third eye in the middle of the forehead. I saw flashing lights when my eyes were closed, swirling sensations, a tunnel of light with a star in the centre. I had visions and premonitions of things that would happen in the future. Sometimes the things I saw would happen years later.

So, gradually, the prana is moving up through the body over, over a number of years, purifying energetic centres and energetic channels in the body as it goes. Eventually the prana will reach the crown of the head, and there are all sorts of experiences that accompany a crown opening. I experienced a rod of light passing through the top of my head, which was very blissful, very ecstatic. Sometimes I saw an upturned bowl of white light on top of my head, and at other times petals rising up around my head. There were hundreds of these petals, and each one was ecstatic as it curled upwards. I also experienced energy swirling in the space above the top of my head, experiences of bliss, and an expanded state of consciousness. The experience of oneness with everything in existence. So, these are all symptoms associated with the opening of the crown.

One of the things that happens at the same time as these various chakras are opening, is a gradual process of the body becoming fully ecstatic. So, this often begins just with small ecstatic connections happening within the body, between one point in the body, and another point, but gradually expanding to fill the whole body, so the whole body becomes ecstatic. This ecstasy is felt vibrating within every cell of the body, so it is different from the bliss associated with the opening of the crown chakra. These two factors, ecstasy in the body, and bliss, play an important part in the whole process of kundalini. Eventually these two things are present at the same time and will begin to merge. This merging is sometimes referred to as the merging of Shakti and Shiva, in the crown chakra. This is often where it is first experienced, but eventually, there is a descent of the energy back down into the heart, and the final merging of Shakti and Shiva happens there. This merging brings about a state of unity and divine love.

So, this whole process is referred to as kundalini. This is a process that many people around the world are now beginning to go through. I would say at least hundreds of thousands of people around the world. In many cases kundalini awakenings are being triggered through the practice of yoga. But this is not always the case. Kundalini can be triggered by other things, such as a traumatic experience, or an illness, or a physical blow to the top of the head. It can also be triggered by things like horse riding, or being absorbed in the beauty of nature, or through sex. For most people, kundalini will not awaken until the body reaches a certain degree of spiritual purification. So, people can practise yoga for many years, before an awakening happens.

If kundalini awakens before the body has been purified sufficiently, this is referred to as a premature awakening. When kundalini awakens prematurely, the person going through the experience can have a difficult time. Experiences can be uncomfortable and unpleasant for quite some time, until the inner purification of the body catches up. If spiritual practices are used to prepare the body, before kundalini awakens, and those spiritual practices are effective ones, then the awakening of kundalini will be a very easy and beautiful process. Once kundalini is awakened, it has a certain kind of intelligence. It knows where it is going, to a certain degree, a bit like the way a flower knows how to open when the time is right.

But the intelligence of kundalini, is not 100%. Sometimes it makes mistakes and will push ahead too quickly, or send prana down the wrong channel. I would say the intelligence of kundalini is only about 70% accurate. So, even after the awakening of kundalini, it is still necessary to engage in spiritual practices on a regular basis, in order to give direction to the energy and to have a degree of control over the rate of spiritual purification. This last point is important, because the whole thing can begin unfolding too quickly, if we do not know how to regulate it.

Another aspect to kundalini is that we need to learn how to stay grounded to the Earth. Kundalini tends to rise, and if we rise too fast, we can lose that sense of being connected, or rooted, to the Earth. If we become ungrounded, this can manifest as feeling spaced-out, or unbalanced, or not being able to function well in society. So, guiding the flows of energy, pacing the rate of purification and staying grounded effectively are three of the most important aspects of managing a kundalini awakening.

I would add a fourth aspect to those and this is probably the most important of all. This is the cultivation of inner silence. As we develop inner silence through meditation, we are simultaneously cultivating equanimity, peace and a balanced state of mind. This is something that is very important to have as we go through an awakening. Equanimity will give us the stability that we need to progress through any challenges that arise on the journey. And cultivating this, even before the beginning of an awakening, is very useful. With inner silence well established, there is really nothing that can disturb us. So, if we can learn how to manage all these things, and we can get everything in place, then the awakening of kundalini is one of the most incredible things that we can go through in this lifetime.