I had written a post about part of my spiritual path on one of the kundalini threads, and Phil requested I repeat the story here, since it covers transformative experiences. I've rewritten it slightly, because the focus of the other thread was on kundalini stuff and the summary I wrote focused therefore on that particular aspect of my experiences. There's (literally) 2 books worth of story summarized quite briefly here, but hopefully it's of some help to someone to read it.
My own practices before I became Christian were in Santeria (a very devotional polytheistic religious practice that includes trance/possession states) and later (after a long break from any religious interest whatsoever) a practice of devotion to my Holy Guardian Angel in the Western Occult tradition. During that latter period, which was more recent, I had very intense visions, ecstasies, even hallucinations occasionally (in conjunction with heavy spontaneous kundalini activity, which is how this topic came up on the other thread).
My focus was always on utter love for my angel and surrender to his guidance, and my meditation instruction was "allowing things to be as they are" (the way I practiced a minimum of 30 minutes a day was of "pure" meditation; other parts of the day could be taken up with vision work, spirit work, or whatever else I was interested in). I worked with a couple of teachers during this period.
I had an awakening experience in March 2011, and found my relationship to my practices quite un-fitting after that. One of the biggest shocks of my awakening was a recognition that God was present in everything, everywhere, and there was no boundary or separation around "me" anymore - everything seemed to be a divine dance… I realized I had been thinking of God as a sort of abstract force who occasionally manipulated the world, but now there seemed to be nothing but God's will manifesting: even my own experience seemed simply to be that. I felt like all the practices I'd done were a strange waste of time, a floundering around trying to get something, make something, be something, do something, when all I had ever needed was right here, right now. I felt liberated, as if I'd dropped a huge burden; and reborn, like a child stumbling around on a strange planet, not understanding how anything worked. I felt like I didn't know anything about anything, and yet that felt so freeing.
That said, I didn't know what to do with myself, and for the next year I flailed around quite a bit. I continued pursuing the practices I'd done before, but they all seemed (either immediately or gradually) pointless. Meditation seemed pointless from the get go, and I hardly did it anymore. The spirit and vision practices gradually died down and became not-fitting and unsatisfying. My old habits and patterns seemed to grind painfully against the infinite divine presence and peace. I had occasional intense and very moving visions of the Crucifixion, which I didn't really get since I wasn't interested in Christianity.
However, one day I was doing a very long series of spirit conjurations which involved lengthy traditional Catholic exorcism prayers and long periods of kneeling and praying the Our Father (these were old rituals, written in the context of a time in which most everyone was Catholic). When I finished the last exorcism of the day I realized that I loved to pray. Those prayers in the ritual were beautiful and they somehow seemed to harmonize with reality in a fresh and perfect way. I downloaded a book of Catholic prayers and from that day I started to just read those as my daily spiritual practice. Then I taught myself to pray the rosary and made that my daily practice. All this felt spontaneous, as if I were being led somewhere, and my path had always been to try my best to listen to that kind of guidance. I didn't believe anything about anything, I was just doing what came up.
The rosary practice became intensely painful and difficult for a while. Yet the worse it got, the more determined I became to stick with it. If something was trying to divert me from it, that meant it was doing me some good. A couple months later there was a gradual softening, and a love arose that astonished me. It felt like the entire universe was made of love. It wasn't mine, it was infinite, unconditional, and it just effortlessly held any pain or tragedy… I didn't know very many people who talked about this, but I did sometimes see mention of it in Christian writings - (by this time I still hadn't read the Bible, but I had read St. John of the Cross, St. Ignatius, and was now discovering St. Francis of Sales).
I asked to talk to the priest at a nearby church about this love and my prayer life, and instead unintentionally asked to be baptized. I was shocked to hear myself say that, but I took it as another rabbit hole I had to explore, since clearly God had put the words in my mouth. I spent six months studying with a third order Carmelite catechist. When I was baptized, it felt (again) like the most profound change in my life, like nothing more was needed, and whatever God wanted from me, I would happily accept. I think I cried through Mass for several months straight - first because I wasn't yet baptized and couldn't take communion, then because I could, and it was the most humbling and beautiful thing ever. I'm actually prone to weeping over all sorts of things, so take that with a grain of salt. But I do get on the nerves of my lapsed Catholic friends with my total enthusiasm for everything - Divine Office? yep; chapel veil? yep; daily Mass? almost always; frequent confession? I'm there; Gregorian chant? yep; boring parish committees? for sure. I keep thinking it will wear off, and maybe it will, but so far not.
By the time I was baptized I no was longer having any notable kundalini phenomena or, for that matter, any sensory/mental phenomena such as visions, trances or feeling the presence of spirits. As those things dropped away it felt like a relief. I did go through one more very painful spell over this past half-year, which seemed to be a profound misery and growing sense of utter helplessness. I felt like I came to a much deeper understanding of suffering, contrition, sacrifice and love. God's hand in my life was so strong, so self-sufficient, that my sense of being of anything whatsoever seemed to be ever more burned away. I wanted to give him everything. But everything I wanted to give him was already his, anything I tried to do for him was already his… and one day I had another awakening experience, in some ways quite similar to the previous one, except it seemed so much more complete and full and clear, as if the previous one had been seeing the truth through dirty glass.
The "strangest" anything gets these days is just a sense of deep joy and love, or a gentle bliss, or not infrequent tears of joy and wonder, and a general sense of harmony with how things are unfolding. Things - big or small - seem to happen just as they need to, just at the right time. It feels like a real gift to have come to such a happiness and calm. I tend to look back and think of my spiritual path as God whacking me on my thick skull with a large brick for years, while I cluelessly didn't take the hint.
Any good that's come from my earlier shenanigans seems solely due to God's great patience and mercy, as I deserve none of it. I still find that a good reminder, and I mean it when I say with all my heart in Mass: "Lord, I am not worthy..." I really feel so very grateful to been led through that thicket of thorns and mud to such a simple, peaceful place. I don't feel that anything I have is mine at all, but only His. There's actually a level at which that simply doesn't mean anything anymore, because there's no distinction, no sense of me or Him in any perceived way, no sense of perspective. Just this. But I also feel like fussing about experiences or explanations is really not very important anymore.
As I said, the minimalist version, but there ya go.
Oh, so you are a March 2011 baby. Me too. How did the intensity of the "spontaneous kundalini activity" correlate with that timeline, i.e. before/during/after March 2011?
The purification stuff (which is what the kundalini activity seemed to be part of) continued quite heavily for 6-8 months, then started fading. By the end of another 8 months or so it seemed to be pretty much gone.
And you? Or have you had little kundalini activity along the way?
None at all. I read the accounts here just to learn. Phil's book is probably the best there is, yet it remains something outside my direct experience.
(I realize I didn't fully answer your question. The kundalini stuff started about eight months after I started meditating regularly, which was in early 2009 I think, maybe 2008. When I started having visions, etc. It continued rather fiercely through the awakening, and then the rest I already said above...) I did not do any practices to make it happen, I didn't use the term, really. Other aspects of my experience were more important to me at the time, such as the interactions with my angel, the content of visions, the spirit work, and the insights coming up in meditation.
Thank you, Ona, for re-posting and elaborating more on your story. Quite a testimony to God's work in your life, and your willingness to respond.
re: "willingness to respond" - this too seems to be God's work, not mine.
As I came across at a retreat earlier this year:
Yeah, that's a very post-egoic view of things.
It's that aspect of Christian teaching that seems so relevant and powerful to me. Perhaps it goes unnoticed or isn't understood easily when one is more entangled in the world, but so much of the teaching is about "not me" - God's hand, God's gifts, God's creation, God's guidance, God's love. The constant pointers to surrender to divine will and recognizing God's presence and action in everything we do, feel, say, think. The pointers to humility, renunciation of our self-centered habits. It's powerful stuff.
That said, I had some exposure to Christianity in college, where various roommates and friends were believers, and it meant nothing to me then. So perhaps one can't really hear/see those teachings until the time is right.
Thanks for sharing your story Ona. I'm a recent convert to Catholicism myself and I'm also struck by how cradle catholics often shake their heads in wonder at our (my wife and I converted together) desire to drink in all that the Church has to offer. I love, love, love being Catholic.
My wife and I met at a Baptist theological college, both studying to enter full-time ministry. But the inconsistencies of Protestant Ecclesiology left us both unable to relate well to the churches we were supposed to be taking leadership roles in. I had just about given up on ever finding happiness and fulfillment in the church, when Phil's encouragement in 2011 led to my engagement with the Catholic Tradition. I am so grateful to God and Christ for giving me back the Church and for introducing me to the great cloud of witnesses, the saints and angels and our Mother Mary.
Did I mention that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE being Catholic. I feel so at-peace, a feeling that has alluded me for the last 12 years of my Christian walk and gifted to me in the hands of the Catholic Faith. Thank You Jesus.
Thanks for sharing that Jacques! I have tried to keep my enthusiasm a bit restrained in many contexts, so as not to get on people's nerves...
I enjoyed your story, Ona. (Somehow I missed it till now). Thanks.
The variety of practise and experience, and God's patience and the simplicity of what you've found!
Did something specifically trigger your awakening experiences? Or were you just "ripe"? Interesting to note the one period of misery after your first awakening experience and conversion, followed then by a deeper, permanent experience. There does seem to be stages and levels or layers we uncover, sometimes very gradually, other times in one or two leaps.
Samson - I don't think they ever happen "because of" a specific action or event, but always because of ripeness (even if we are unaware of the ripeness). But we often associate some thing that was happening at the time - like suddenly noticing an object or thinking of a teaching, and it seems to cut us like a knife. I think that's non-causal though, even though we often feel like it was causal.
A friend of mine was looking at a duck on the water, had some thought about how the duck was one with the water and had her awakening experience at that moment. Another was folding laundry, but didn't have a deep thought about laundry - it was just incidental.
That earlier one, I was reading a silly website and suddenly thought "if 'God is driving' why am I looking at something dumb like this?" and that seemed to coincide with the dropping of separation. The more recent one something happened while I was sleeping I suppose. I woke up in the night with a strong memory of the first awakening, as if I were reliving it; then I fell back asleep, then woke up in the morning and everything was different.
Simplicity is a nice way to put it.
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