Kundalini – friend or foe?

While some people diligently practice yoga and meditation in the hopes of awakening the kundalini, there are a few people here and there waving a red flag, “beware of kundalini!” What is the truth of the matter? Is an awakened kundalini to be cherished or feared?

If the word ‘kundalini’ is new to you, the original Sanskrit word refers to a coiled energy that lies dormant at the base of the spine. When aroused, this energy rises up through the spine, opening and clearing chakras as it goes, initiating a white light or enlightenment experience when it passes right up through the crown of the head.

The experience is usually imbued with bliss. Any discomfort or problems that arise are due to the interaction between the high frequency energies, the new perception opened to and the body-mind. Whether kundalini is a friend or foe largely depends on your disposition.

If you are the kind of person who is fairly grounded, energetically balanced, integrated, comfortable with the unknown, and – this is the big one – has no fear of the ego-mind temporarily dissolving, this awakening will likely be the most cherished, exquisite moment of your life.

When fear is present – fear of losing control, fear of the unknown – you’ll likely prefer to avoid a spiritual awakening of any sort.

To find out more about people’s spiritual experiences, 110 people filled in a 4-page questionnaire exploring what they had experienced, what they felt triggered the experience, what they went through afterwards, what help they received, how useful that help was, and how they felt having come through the transformation.

Most people have a mixture of responses to the experience. I discovered that around ¼ of the participants felt positive experiences and needed little or no adjustment period afterwards, and about a half needed quite a bit of time to integrate and adjust to the experience afterwards. For some people the experience initiated an intense time of personal transformation, which lasted some years. All of them felt all the better for the experience afterwards – they generally felt happier, more creative, more compassionate, freer and more aligned with their life purpose.

One interesting finding is that 43% of these participants were not engaged in spiritual practice prior to their first mystical experience. Since this study drew from a fairly spiritually oriented part of our population, I imagine the general figure is much higher. This is wild! We have millions of people practicing yoga, going to church, and meditating without ever having a kundalini awakening or profound experience, and thousands of people having these awakenings without any interest in them, without any information, without knowing what is going on inside them. We are lead to conclude that aspects of awakening are beyond our mind’s control – call it karma, call it Grace.

These awakenings are happening more often than they used to. People here in downtown Ottawa are going through times of deep personal transformation, a kind of shamanic crisis. They say that not understanding what is happening or how to handle it is the hardest part. The other hard part is being alone, misunderstood, no longer seeing as they used to.

Most of the participants eventually sought help. When asked how useful the help they sought was, energy workers were described by 2/3 of people as being ‘excellent.’ Naturopaths were very helpful. Therapists, doctors, psychiatrists, clergy and family members didn’t fair so well. ‘Kind but useless,’ and ‘unkind, not useful,’ were common descriptions, with an astonishing percentage of helpers being described as ‘devastating!’ For example 62% of these participants didn’t find their M.D. helpful, 27% didn’t find their therapist helpful. Surprisingly, one in six participants weren’t helped by their yoga teacher, 4% being devastated by the teacher’s lack of understanding or misinformation. If a yoga teacher, particularly a kundalini yoga teacher, doesn’t recognize the signs of awakening or know what to do, where could someone turn?

In a series of recent interviews, it has become clear that during spiritual emergence, people need information and understanding about what is happening. Without information, the weird energy sensations, unusual states of consciousness and internal clearing area tend to be assumed to be some kind of illness. Information and understanding replaces nagging confusion with a great sense of relief, ‘Ah, that’s what it is!’

There is a rapid shift in consciousness happening. To facilitate this shift, we need to grok the process of transformation: how it feels inside, how energy moves, how balance can be re-established after powerful energies and new awareness have opened up. We need to know when to pause our spiritual practice, when to work on grounding the energy. We need to embrace the internal clearing that invariably takes place after an awakening. It’s idealistic to suppose that we can simply step into our Buddha nature without needing any integration or purification. Not even the Buddha managed that one!

Should we be wary of our spiritual evolution? I don’t think so! Rather than being ‘cautious,’ we should be informed. A greater power is creating these awakenings, and they will likely continue to happen. By increasing our understanding and skills, we can welcome these shifts in consciousness, integrate them, and help us all move towards greater love and awareness.