Excerpt from the new book: Awakening Kundalini: The Path To Radical Freedom
This is the opening invocation written by Kalidas in April 2013 and inspired by the ancient Sanskrit hymn to Kundalini, the Kundalini Stavaha:
What is Kundalini?
Kundalini is a term from the yogic tradition for the power of the Divine. It is Kundalini who creates the universe and knows Its Self as Creator. Kundalini has been called “the face of God.” Just as we recognize someone by his or her face we recognize the Divine by Its power of Consciousness, Kundalini. It is Kundalini that clothes the formless in form, that gives the Absolute a face to adore, a presence to inspire, traditions to revere and a body of wisdom to serve and guide. She is the esoteric goal of all yogas, the awakened mind of the thatagatas and the transcendent vision of saints and sages. By knowing Her, all is known and life becomes suffused with ananda – sublime joy. The source of that joy is our very own Self, forever present, nearer than our breath, waiting in Stillness to be revealed. Drown the ordinary ego-mind in Stillness if you truly want to know the Knower.
The Eastern traditions revere Kundalini as a Goddess, the Great Mother who gives birth to all that is. She is seen as taking on limitations, contracting and condensing to form the material world. She is the essential energy, more fundamental than nuclear power, that is the basis of who we are and all that we experience. When our limited mind is infused with Her transcendent power of Consciousness we know directly the truth of our unity with the Divine and all Its creation. Every spiritual tradition has its name for Kundalini – Holy Spirit, Grace, Shekhinah, Anima, Chi, Bodhicitta- and every saint and mystic has known Her blessing. Seekers on all paths need Her grace to succeed on their journeys. For this reason shamans, yogis, monks, priests, nuns and aspirants of all types approach Her as suppliants. Being the Great Mother, the Great Lover, She’s willing to take whatever shape and bare whatever name Her children wish to use as they bow to Her.
Kundalini is often used to refer to the power of the Divine present in each person. She has two aspects. One maintains the entire existence of our body, mind and spirit. The other aspect, considered dormant, is the power of Consciousness to know the Divine in Its infinitude as Self. This potential power, innate to all of us, can propel our awareness from the paltry limitations of individual existence, with all its wants and needs and deficiencies, to Unity Consciousness – the sublime awareness of our Divine Self, infinite and all-encompassing. Symbolized by a coiled serpent asleep in the center of earthbound consciousness, this aspect of Kundalini awaits the great awakening, the most profoundly important event in the long life of the soul, a life that extends over countless cycles of physical birth and death.
What is Kundalini awakening?
Shaktipat, the Sanskrit term for Kundalini awakening, means “descent of grace.” It is an act of grace, an act of the Divine that releases the dormant potential power of the Absolute residing within us. God blesses God so that God may know God. Your true Self blesses you so that you may know your Self.
Kundalini awakening may occur in a ritual designed specifically for such a transmittal of power, as in some initiation ceremonies or as baptism was once meant to be. The person conducting the initiation and the ritual or practices must have the power to invoke such an awakening for it to be genuine. Unfortunately there are many, many more impostors than there are genuine conduits for the power of Grace.
Awakening can also occur through various yogic practices and disciplines developed over thousands of years specifically for preparing the mind and body for this vast influx of power and aiding in the arousal of Kundalini. Prayer, devotional practices, chanting, selflessly serving others, meditation, mantras, ritual dance, drumming and many other sacred endeavors can awaken Divine Consciousness, Kundalini.
Spontaneous awakening of Kundalini can be precipitated by near death experiences, traumatic experiences, pain, deep sorrow, prolonged periods of one-pointed concentration, or even in dreams through the initiation given by a wise being. It’s even possible for one to have been initiated in a past life and have the signs of awakened Kundalini continue in this life without any recollection of the past-life Shaktipat.
Though Kundalini awakening is the greatest prize on the spiritual quest, the blessed soul receiving this grace is on its way to the realization of the highest, the awakening and its attendant process of renewal is not without peril. When the dormant or potential aspect of the Kundalini arises, Her single intent is the transformation of individual consciousness with its vehicles – mind and body – into fully expanded Consciousness of the Divine. That process of transformation and purification is marked by both beatific sublime experiences of the Divine, as well as by dark nights of the soul, by physical, emotional and mental states of ecstasy as well as periods of purgation and distress. Kundalini awakening can create experiences that mimic psychiatric and somatic disorders. As you study this field you will find many accounts of misdiagnosis and mistreatment of what is essentially a Divinely inspired process. My first book, The Soul’s Journey: Guidance from the Divine Within, focuses on the many dimensions of transformation wrought by the grace of Kundalini. She works on all levels of human experience; nothing remains untouched by Kundalini! When I did my doctoral research examining the changes wrought by Kundalini I found 169 types covering virtually all of human functioning. If you have experienced Kundalini awakening or you’re seeking it, be prepared for a cosmic makeover!
The awakened Kundalini can stir up everything from latent diseases of the body to emotional or psychological disturbances. Some people feel like chaos has descended upon them, not grace, as Kundalini renovates body, mind and relationships. Symptoms of Kundalini arousal include: sweating, trembling, sensations of heat and cold, rushes of energy through the body or up and down the spine, fear, anxiety, weight loss or gain, food cravings, dissociation, visions, out-of-body experiences, body movements and hatha yoga postures happening spontaneously during meditation, retention of breath and other changes in breathing patterns, mantras and sounds arising from within, distortions of time and space, profound stillness and peace, healings, habits or addictions dropping away, inspired creativity, and states of boundless ecstasy and love arising for no apparent reason. This is just a partial list of what may be experienced. These signs of Kundalini process may be confused with or misdiagnosed as anxiety disorders, psychotic disorders, dissociative disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and other diseases. While initial experiences may focus on physical, emotional and mental purification and transformation, shifts in values, attitudes and behaviors will also occur and have a major impact on relationships. Changes in appetites for food and sex along with attitude and value changes are the most stressful areas of transformation for relationships.
Kundalini opens the doors of perception to vast realms of Consciousness. Your meditation may include visions, lights, colors, sounds, journeys to archetypal realms, and infinite expanses of utter stillness throbbing with an absolute fullness of Being. Tears of joy may stream down your face as love beyond measure courses through your body. The Kundalini’s gifts are incomparable. After receiving them no one is ever the same.
Support is essential for anyone experiencing Kundalini awakening and evolution. Finding skilled and knowledgeable individuals who can assist and guide without pathologizing or taking advantage of the vulnerable state one is in can be difficult. Out of desperation and ignorance people give up their power and discrimination to teachers or practitioners who create dependence, demand loyalty or secrecy or otherwise compromise the autonomy and integrity of the seeker. The guru market is worse than the used car market, be wary! There are few bad intentioned individuals, but ignorance can be nearly as harmful. If you’re seeking support ask whomever you’re approaching for help – potential teachers, counselors, psychotherapists, health professionals – about their experience and knowledge of dealing with spiritual experiences, Kundalini and the dynamics of spiritual transformation. If you don’t like their answers, move on. I’ve listed resources and organizations for people to contact for possible help, but they don’t come with a blanket recommendation. It is critical that you carefully check out anybody you are considering giving the privilege of entering into your sacred process. It is also critical to remember that you can always expel them if you feel your boundaries, integrity or autonomy are being violated or if you become aware of them doing that to another person. The path of Kundalini requires that one be deeply informed about what this path requires. To help people become better informed and to give people a source of solid, grounded practices from the ancient Kundalini yoga tradition, I worked with Sounds True to produce a 7.5 hour audio program titled Awakening Kundalini: The Path To Radical Freedom. I’m hearing from people around the world who are so delighted to be getting the help and guidance they couldn’t find elsewhere, but now have access to it through the audio program and the practices that bring them to the very source of wisdom, Kundalini, within themselves.
There are many approaches to working with Kundalini. My experience is based on a loving, devotional path of reverence for the Infinite within everyone and everything. My guru and teachers worshiped Kundalini and received Her full blessings. If you want to draw near to some one, what better way than through love? Do you think this wouldn’t be true of the Divine? However, there are teachers who speak of attacking the Kundalini, forcing Her to do their bidding, prodding Her into action and other aggressive approaches. They’re also more likely to focus on negative effects of Kundalini awakening, “wrong rising” of Kundalini and directing the Kundalini by will or force. I believe this attempt to assert control is part of the outmoded patriarchal paradigm in which male gods and male priests sought to overthrow the Divine Feminine. Some yogic paths have a very strong patriarchal bias, denouncing women, viewing them as dangerous to one on the spiritual path and treating Kundalini as dangerous and in need of subjugation. Given that kind of hostile way of treating Kundalini, is there any wonder that difficulties ensue? Instead, seek to understand, appreciate and be in harmony with Her through study, self-discipline, meditation and devotion. She is the power of your own Divinity come to take you home. Who has greater intelligence and knowledge than Her? It’s hubris to think we know better and She should follow our will! What will we have is a gift, a tiny spark of Her Divine Will. Let’s use it to keep in step with Her dance as best we can!
Free podcasts of Lawrence Edwards speaking about Kundalini – 1 hour each.
Tami Simon, the publisher of Sounds True, interviewed me about Kundalini awakening and the processes involved in Kundalini unfolding. Sounds True has generously made these podcasts freely available.
Dr. Lawrence Edwards and Tami Simon:
December 9, 2009 (click to listen to podcast)
Tami Simon speaks with Dr. Lawrence Edwards, president of The Kundalini Research Network, as well as the founder of a Kundalini support website, kundalinisupport.org. He is also a contributing author to a new anthology published by Sounds True entitled Kundalini Rising: Exploring the Energy of Awakening. Lawrence has practiced and taught meditation for over 35 years, is a board-certified neurotherapist, a licensed psychotherapist, and has been on the faculty of New York Medical College since 1998. Lawrence discusses his own experiences with Kundalini
August 21, 2012 (click to listen to podcast)
Tami Simon speaks with Dr. Lawrence Edwards, president of the Kundalini Research Network and founder of kundalinisupport.org, a Kundalini support website. A meditation teacher, board-certified neurotherapist, and licensed psychotherapist, Lawrence has created with Sounds True an audio training program titled Awakening Kundalini: The Path to Radical Freedom. In this episode, Tami speaks with Lawrence about how to avoid common pitfalls in the Kundalini awakening process, what the role of our ego mind is in a Kundalini awakening, and the nature of a Kundalini energy transmission from a teacher. He also shares an empowered mantra to work with as part of the Kundalini awakening process. (70 minutes)