The Kundalini Process: A Christian Understanding
Kundalini Energy and Christian Spirituality
- by Philip St. Romain
Paperback and digital editions
Greetings, everyone. I'm glad to have found this forum, which it seems like I should have found before, given I first read Phil's book on K. and Christian Spirituality nearly ten years ago.
I don't want to seem like I'm giving less attention to my initial K. awakening than it's due. There may be an opportunity to give more detail after I've been on the forum a while. The basics, though, are that I had an unplanned-for awakening about ten years ago that had quite intense, negative side-effects that took nearly eight months to go through, including most of the traditional physical and psychological effects. I was lucky to find Bonnie Greenwell at the time, as well as Stuart Sovatsky, both of whom gave me much needed support and grounding strategies. The many after-effects of my awakening included a major career shift, many lifestyle changes, and a return to Christianity, albeit a much more mystical version than the Evangelical one I grew up with. I ceased all yoga and meditation practices (many of which helped contribute to my initial awakening), and for the last nine years or so I've had very little "active" K. symptoms.
About two weeks ago, on the occasion of my 46th birthday, I received a tattoo on my inner upper left arm that seems to have activated my K. once more, although at a much less intense level. I'm experiencing a milder version of many of the symptoms I used to experience, but I find myself--in spite of everything I know to do--fearing the worst outcomes. Perhaps the most troubling is the return of intense night terrors/visions that often have destruction and decay as their primary themes. I'm also having large concentrations of energy in my head, "wavering" vision (eyesight), and wild mood variations, including some suicidal thoughts.
One huge difference between now and ten years ago is that I'm in a solid, loving relationship with a partner who has gone out of her way to try and understand K., and how to best help. I really couldn't ask for better support on a daily basis. Additionally, my physical lifestyle is much improved, and I'm now part of an active church community, including a men's group who is aware of and supportive of my current process.
So, why am I here? For support, I suppose, and with some curiosity. I've been through this enough to know that everyone's process is different, but have any of you heard of this kind of "mild activation" of K. so long after the initial awakening? Would you expect the duration, not to mention the intensity, to be much less than that initial eight-month process? For what it's worth, I'm one of those guys for whom red meat and alcohol are extremely grounding, so I'm slightly increasing my intake of both for the time being. I'm doing my best to pray gently at every opportunity, and I find that keeping a small picture of Christ near my bed is extremely calming and grounding.
As you might be able to tell, I'm not really here to hash out K. philosophy, or finer points of loss of ego, etc. Suffice it to say that I'm of the Greenwell school of full embodiment, that I'm not here to transcend prematurely, or manipulate K. into advanced spiritual states. I'm an exceedingly practical, in-the-world person who is interested in hearing from others whether what I've described (this mild activation) is familiar, and how you might have passed through it.
I'm more than happy to answer clarifying questions, especially in regard to my initial awakening of ten years ago.
Thanks for allowing me to be here; I look forward to hearing from you.
Hi Jay. Welcome to the forum, and thanks for sharing your story.
It sounds like your biggest concern now is that the process will become more active and negatively disruptive. It's not unusual for K to become more intense and then diminish at times -- sometimes for long periods. Sometimes we can correlate it with diet, stress, lifestyle changes, sexual activity, prayer/meditation experiences, and so forth. Sometimes there's just no knowing what's going on.
I'm wondering about these dreams you're having, and the message they're trying to convey. Do you do much work with them? Maybe there are some negative emotions that are being stirred, perhaps from deep in the unconscious. That might be a good thing -- part of a deep, healing process.
What kind of tattoo did you get on your upper left arm? I'm curious as to why/how it might have stirred the energy process. Maybe it's just a correlation?
Hi, Phil, and thanks for responding. To fill in another part of the back story, I also had a fairly strong, but short-lived, K. recurrence about a year after my first activation (so, about 8 years ago) when I had a larger tattoo done of a phoenix on my back. Consulting with teachers at the time, as well as my own intuition, made it clear that the tattoo was the cause of that activation. It was suggested--and I believe it to be true--that the act of piercing the subtle body with the needle was enough to cause a re-activation. That re-activation lasted about a month, and was even stronger than what I'm feeling now.
I tend to measure my K. activity in comparison to my original awakening, which I think of as a "10" (or 11?). That first re-activation, after my first tattoo, was probably around a 5 in intensity. My current re-activation is hovering around a 3-4, and comes and goes in intensity. Last week, I had about 4 days of nearly no activity at all, but two of the last four nights have been intense.
As far as this current activation, I've been in touch with Bonnie Greenwell again, and she feels like this tattoo is probably the source--the activity literally started the day after I received the tattoo. The tattoo is a quote from Jung's Red Book: "The more you flee from the God, the more surely you fall into his hand." I know it's almost laughably apropos. I had the tattoo done as a sort of statement/reminder of my return to my faith.
I'm sure it sounds unbelievable, but when I chose to get this new tattoo, I honestly didn't consciously think about K. repercussions. My K. activity has been so unnoticeable for so long, it's something I hardly even think about. But, as you can imagine, it's pretty much all I'm thinking about these last two+ weeks.
The dreams are mostly non-sensical, flashing images of decaying faces, bloody corpses and the like. A few nights ago, though, I had a longish dream in which I was being chased through a large greenhouse/conservatory by an unseen force. As I ran through the overgrown plants, I felt the force start to hover over me, and I called out to Jesus for his help. As I was calling out, an African-goddess type of figure descended in front of me and started laughing at me. The (scary) thought that came to me was that, at least at that moment in the dream, I was outside of Christ's protection. When I woke up, my vision was overlaid with spinning geometric shapes and my vision was wavy from strong energetic head activity. I turned to the picture of Christ next to my bed, and my girlfriend sat up with me, bringing me back into reality by talking to me and massaging my legs.
As far as "working" with dreams like that, I'm not seeing a therapist right now, but I try to write them down and journal when I can. Right now, as I write to you, my thought is that I may have a fear (unfounded, I realize consciously) that I'm somehow not under Christ's protection during this re-activation. As panicky, suicidal thoughts arise, and I have certain dreams/visions, I'm not only nervous about what's happening in the moment, but I have clear memories of how intense my first awakening was, and how difficult. At that time, I was far from my faith. In fact, countless things were different in my life.
It's my heart's desire and conscious wish that this activation will continue to be relatively mild and short-lived. I also know, though, that it can be unpredictable. My work and artistic lives have been very full and satisfying prior to this activation, and having to remove myself from deep participation in either is sad and anxiety-provoking.
One thing that's hopeful--and perhaps this is evidenced by my posts--is that my cognitive functioning is currently very good, especially compared to my original awakening, during which I could hardly put two words together. I have great clarity of thought right now, which I consider a blessing.
One thing I'm curious about: do you have any specifically Christ-centered meditations that you undertake/recommend when your K. activity is strong? I feel like I want to reach out to Him, and the best I've come up with so far (outside of general praying) is repeating "Christ within me" whenever I remember to. Yesterday at church, the eucharist felt particularly poignant and profound to me. Yet, these moments feel less more random than I want them to . . . I want to invite the presence of Christ without going overboard in a meditation that might amplify my K. activity.
First of all, Jay, that's a really nice remedy you have for a nightmare:
I turned to the picture of Christ next to my bed, and my girlfriend sat up with me, bringing me back into reality by talking to me and massaging my legs.
We claim Christ's protection by faith and prayer, and know that even though there are frightening things going on, we shall not be separated from Him (see Rm. 8:37-39) That doesn't mean that the frightening things go away, however. Remember that He was in full union with the Father, and yet he suffered torture and crucifixion . . . then resurrection.
I'm not familiar enough with the tattooing process to comment on the possibility that it's a catalyst for K activity. If it's using needles to electrically stimulate the skin like some forms of acupuncture do, then it's a possibility. You surely have two good correlations, and Bonnie's opinion, which is based on much experience (tell her hi, btw, if you talk to her again -- it's been awhile since we've communicated).
I think your dreams might be related to K activity, as they seem deep and archetypal, conjuring up what Jung called "Shadow" symbolism, especially of the Anima, your unconscious feminine side. K in Hindu mythology has both positive and negative aspects, as Shakti, consort of Shiva, but also Kali, who sometimes represents destruction and death.
- see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kali
Maybe you're being introduced to Kali? She seems to be a handful!
Not much we can do about dreams except allow them to have their say, and to call on Christ to be with you during this time of transition. I would consider these Kali energies/symbols to be of your own deep unconscious rather than some actual demonic entity, but that doesn't mean it's not a rough ride, at times.
For a Christ-centered meditation, you might try the Jesus Prayer: (inhaling) "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God" (exhaling), "have mercy on me, a sinner." Or . . . "Lord Jesus Christ" . . . "have mercy on me." Or however you want to do it.
You might also pay attention to the connection between K experience and sexual activity. Sometimes too much sex leaves one feeling raw and panicky, with the energy very coarse and burning. There is this mysterious connection between K and sexual energy, even sexual fluids -- undoubtedly a factor that once contributed to an understanding of the positive value of celibacy. I don't think celibacy is necessary to integrate K process, but one does need to learn balance in this area of life, as in all others as well.
This is all very helpful, Phil. Last night, before going to sleep, I meditated on the blood of Christ, as given through the eucharist, and I had my best night of sleep in two weeks.
Re: sexual energy, I've not been celibate, but I've been careful about listening to what my body needs in that regard. I thought I might share some advice I received from Stuart Sovatsky when I met with him years ago, which represented a real turning point in my initial awakening. He suggested I needed to "rehumanize" myself, by which he meant partaking in as many daily, "human," embodied activities as I could tolerate. Our meeting took place between Thanksgiving and Christmas of that particular year, and he encouraged me to wrap Christmas presents, spend time around family, eat comforting foods, and generally place myself in situations where I had to act in an embodied way. The idea was that the flesh would go first, and the spirit would follow, if that makes sense. Both he and one of my yoga teachers at the time thought it best for me (of course, not necessarily for everyone) to eat red meat, drink moderately, and have sex in the context of a loving relationship. After receiving this advice (and practicing it), many of my more difficult symptoms decreased dramatically.
One thing I'm finding this time around is that paying attention to my lower body, my legs in particular, is helping out a lot. Bicycling and spinning (stationary bicycling) seem to be perfect forms of exercise right now, as well as leg presses and squats. My girlfriend massages my legs at least once a day, which also helps tremendously. Hot baths and steam rooms are also keeping me grounded.
I'll definitely say hello to Bonnie. She's going to be doing a cool 6-week Internet study group for those in process (information found here: http://www.kundaliniguide.com/calendar/), and I plan to participate.
I'm sure you'll hear from me more in the next few weeks. Thanks for this great resource, Phil, as well as the gift of your book.
Good old Stu. It's been awhile since we've had contact as well. We used to be invited to conferences on kundalini issues, but I got dropped from the lists years ago. Maybe they don't even have those any more.
That's good advice he gave, however. Grounding and integrating the process in the body is very important, and those are some good ways to do it. I like gardening, golfing, yard work and cooking for all those reasons.
Enjoy your study group with Bonnie.
I just want to comment on your dreams from other, psychodynamic perspective. Images of decay, corpses etc. are quite common for depressive states, which, along with what you say on mood changes and suicidal ideation, makes me worry a bit. Jungian perspective is more concerned with growth, but dreams can also express unconscious, pathogenic conflicts. The idea of being outside kf Christ's protection may also be a depressive fantasy of being abandoned or having lost a crucial love object. I'd not neglect suicidal thoughts. If those things persist, perhaps seeing a psychoanalytic or psychodynamic therapist, open to spirituality and religion, might not be a bad idea. But you may also be able to deal with that on your own, wjth the help of your loving partner.
@MT, thanks for your kind words. To be clear, the mood swings and suicidal thoughts are not persistent, but a common and documented feature (for some of us) of K. activity. Many teachers interpret this as a response to the soul actually wanting to prematurely break free of the subtle body. They are transitory but disturbing, and have already begun to diminish over the course of the last two weeks.
Also, for context, they're nothing like the suicidal ideation of (my) clinical depression, which I experienced through much of my 20s. I worked with a transpersonal therapist for 10+ years, including during the time of my initial K. activation; I've since moved and have been keeping my eyes open for someone I might work with here in Southern California.
May you find the support you need in terms of a therapist and whatever else helps.
I, too, went through a suicidal period about 15 years into the k process. Even though I didn't have dramatic energy runs in my body at that point, it was as though my mind was being stripped away.
The process reminded me of the nasty little boy in C.S. Lewis' Voyage of the Dawn Treader where the boy has turned into a dragon and humbled. He misses everyone and wants to be human again. The lion, Aslan, takes him aside and using one claw slices into layer after layer of the dragon scales until they all fall away.
My mind had patches of darkness running through it. It was like tar paper of fear, anger, and violence. I prayed my way through it (trying to witness the arising, not cling to it), but don't recommend it for others (get whatever help you need).
I've experienced extreme physical pain over a prolonged period. Mental pain is far worse. I think my saving grace was that I had offered my life to God as a child, and that which is not mine, I cannot take. And then throughout all that suffering, a larger aspect of my mind constantly contemplated the Crucifixion--not from conscious effort.
Not all repressed subconscious material is negative. At the same time the darkness was arising in my mind, there was a profound upwelling of love for Christ. He was my constant companion in my darkest hour. The essence of the Crucifixion is Love.
For me also, the attitude of a child and the cross are what keeps me in touch with God's love in suffering.
But the suicidal impulses... well, I don't think they can have anything positive or spiritual about them, even though they seem to be a part of not only K process but the dark night of the spirit also. Psychoanalysis is here pretty much on the same page as Christianity: suicide is an act of murdering someone, filled with extreme destructiveness. We tend to think that murdering the other is somehow worse or more violent than murdering yourself. But as for psychoanalysis it is an expression of extreme aggression, so for Christians it is a grave sin. So we shoukd treat this as a grave temptation on our path, just as if we where fantasizing about killing someone close to us. If it doesn't go away, external help is reasonable. But of course grace also works in us and helps us to overcome those temptations.
Btw, there is an anecdote about Plotinus, 3rd century Neoplatonic philosopher and mystic, whose disciple, Porphyry (also a famous later philosopher) asked whether he should commit suicide. Porphyry interpreted suicidal impulses as a sign of a spiritually advanced state and he believed it is a sign that his soul is ready to abandon the body. Plotinus advised him to travel overseas (a common therapy for melancholia in antiquity). Travels (or Plotinus' words) apparently helped, since Porphyry didn't leave the body, but lived to become an editor of Plotinus' writings, influential philosopher and also the main critic of Christianity. What he found the most blasphemous thing in Christianity was the idea that God, being perfect and happy spirit, could choose to incarnate and descend to the material level of reality.
Thanks for your comments and concerns. I'll try to explain more where I am coming from.
I totally agree that a person should seek external help. I don't think the focusing on sin would have helped at the time, because it would have just added to the self-judgment of a mind already turned back on itself. Spaciousness and love was what provided clarity to navigate the stormy seas.
Sort of in this vein:
Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes...
(St. Teresa of Avila)
I think the hardest part was the striving to be good and pure, and then you get hit on the head that the contents of your mind are full of the good, the bad, and the ugly--not just as an individual but as a member of humanity. That so much of one's sense of personality was built on idealizations. It is extremely humiliating and humbling. Somehow in the midst of this maze of contradictions, one follows the thread of Love.
As a human, I am capable of all things. Given the right circumstances, I am capable of doing just about anything, especially if the quality of empathy is missing. We act upon such limited information, impulses and assumptions. So much of history is a horror show and we really aren't much different than our ancestors.
I think one thing that happens when you pray deeply is that you start getting connected subconsciously to others who also pray. Actually, the connection is probably already there, you just start to get glimpses of it--just as a tree is not separate from the rest of the forest. The problem of suffering arises, not just your personal suffering, but a larger aspect--hearing calls and prayers of others.
[Sorry this is so long, but I've thought about these things a lot but never wrote them down or talked about it before to any extent.]
About five years ago, I watched the martial arts movie, "Crouching Tiger." One of the main characters is a man who was living a monk's life, but when he bumped into suffering/hearing the calls for help, he ran away and became a mercenary. I thought it was fascinating that a level/problem of contemplative life was an important plot point in a movie.
Part of the craziness of contemplation is that you are so open (at least in my case--maybe some people have better shields). And you don't necessarily know how to work the controls. Like the character in the movie, when I bump up against it, I run away or weasel out of it. I try not to be open to it, but over the years it sometimes comes up. I remember in eighth grade, I was praying and I saw a man being kidnapped and heard his thoughts. I felt terrible about it. I thought, "What can I do? I'm just a little kid." I didn't want those experiences. I think this is part of the shadow side of contemplation that people don't necessarily want to talk about and can play into mental illness (though perhaps not in all cases).
During the most difficult period, I know on several occasions I literally had another person's thoughts run through my head. And at one point, I saw events leading up to a rape (from the rapist's point of view!), but I shut it down as fast as I could. He sure wasn't praying (perhaps she was), so perhaps it might be more like the Force in Star Wars where you can feel an alteration in the field.
So, not only do you have your own baggage you have to deal with, but you have the universal condition. Even growing up in a basically nice, middle class family where the parents remain married all their lives, there seemed to be endless sorrows and tears for the sensitive of heart. And then, in that we are not islands unto ourselves, our personal suffering leads us to a bigger problem of a seeming vastness of suffering around the world and throughout history. When you open to your own stuff, it can feel devastating. When you open (even in little trickles)to the human condition, God help you.
One specific thing during that period (among others) was, I was living in an ashram in India doing a lot of spiritual practices, and one day a village woman was begging at the gate. I didn't have any money on me and knew that at an information kiosk just inside the ashram there were meal tokens that could be handed out. I couldn't speak the language, so I took her by the arm to lead her inside to the kiosk. The woman didn't look thin, but the muscle on her arm had a puffiness and no tone to it. I knew this was a person whose body was devouring its own protein. She was starving.
I led her over to the kiosk. My experience with the young Indian man at the desk had always been quite pleasant. He was intelligent and efficient. In all the marketing material/public image of the organization they prided themselves on their compassion and helping the poor. The woman made the gesture that she needed food (finger tips of right hand all pressed together gesturing towards the mouth in imitation of eating rice curry with one's hand). I expected him to maybe saw a few words to her and give her a meal token, as I had seen with an older Indian gentleman who also took turns sitting at the desk.
Instead, the young man jumped up in a rage and chased her off. I was dumbstruck and sort of collapsed inside of myself. Shortly thereafter, I lost a lot of weight until my arms felt like hers, but I was able to catch it and turn things around a bit. I didn't speak about it or complain about it to anyone. I guess I emotionally identified with the starving woman. This is also something I don't recommend. A different person at the desk might have acted differently. But it became clear later that the "helping the poor" really was a fundraising angle, not much of a reality. So, I'm sure this naïve idealism and being duped, and the cruelty of his actions all played into it. [And this is not unique to this particular organization, it is every place especially where there is a lot of money flowing through and possibility of power over others.]
Perhaps a couple/few years after that, I was reciting prayers while walking around the entire compound and I attuned to that which does not change--a vast field of pure, glistening consciousness, which I equate with Christ (its nature was undivided, unchanging). As I passed Indian villagers they all beamed back a sort of star-struck grin--so I realized they were mirroring back my expression and some of it got communicated to them. As I gazed, I saw that their minds were cloaked in dense energy (like oil floating on water). I realized that all suffering was illusion--they were viewing things through this film, a motley collection of energy (thoughts, emotions, etc.) but the reality was this pristine field of pure light/being. I understood at that point that I was in an unusual state of mind, and made a beeline back to my room--to be discreet and not attract attention.
I never experienced No-Self or Void that some other people talk about. But I suppose this porous sense of self where you identify with the vast field of pure Consciousness might be similar. Where instead of being nothing, you are everything. I like the fact I was at least briefly able to walk that consciousness around, eyes opened, not sit like a lump in a chair all spaced out.
However, the question of integration still seems huge, even almost ten years later. When a friend of the family was dying of cancer, I again felt that hopelessness. I couldn't say to his wife, "Don't worry. His sickness and death were all illusion. The only reality is God." I didn't feel that as a person, and I certainly didn't want to be this aloof, uncaring know-it-all. Too much of the Eastern (or any tradition that negates the ego and material plane) seems so Teflon when it comes to real life suffering of the individual, or apathetic to standing up against tyranny. It seems to me the Christian imperative is to live in the world with love and knowledge of God in your heart, and to try to act and move in the world with compassion. To try our best to live the Golden Rule. [This also sounds contemporary American Buddhist.]
I could just be a psychological mess, but I think as we open to higher/expanded consciousness we need to be very cautious about the mind, which is both tremendously powerful as well as fragile. The sense of self is intricately connected to our sense of sanity. Less focus should be put on purification and elimination of ego, and more should go to fostering a loving sense of embodiment. Somehow we need to lean in on Love while not denying/dismissing the body, the senses, and the material plane. I think the mystery of the Crucifixion is the complete path in a nutshell.
My current health problem seems to be in part that I probably fried my nervous system in this process. Personally, I think my plan right now is to try to gently pick back up the thread of Love, practice self-compassion and embodiment, and try to reflect that in my interactions with others. I still have many places where I am stuck, but I'll try to shine an equal love and acceptance on those areas. When I bump up against suffering in myself and in others, I'll try to find a practical solution (if possible) and reflect upon the unchanging nature of God--to choose God rather than hopelessness and overwhelm.This message has been edited. Last edited by: MaryAnn,
I don't really want to go too deeply into the phenomenon of suicidal thoughts during K., which, as I've noted, have (for me) a very particular quality different than those taking place within depressive states. I've thought long and hard about suicide for the last eight years, following the suicides of two friends (one an ex-girfriend) that took place within a month of each other. I have no doubt that I would encourage external help to those truly in need, including myself.
All that said, there are nuanced explorations of suicide from a spiritual/psychological perspective, including James Hillman's Suicide and the Soul. While in no way endorsing suicide, it certainly proposes intentionality aside from murder, even of the self.
Good that you have done research and have a sense of what you are dealing with. That must have been very hard to lose two people that way only one month apart. Sensing the difference in quality between depressive and Kundalini S thoughts must be extremely helpful.
Just like other K phenomenon for me, these thoughts always arose from the lower chakras and moved up the chain. Like a flock of black birds released into the sky of the mind.
Best, Mary Ann
Just a thought and don't know if it would help or appeal to others, but I am gently and slowly enjoying learning about Eden Energy Med and how to balance the various energy systems. One thing really resonated--the problem of developing the heart chakra to the detriment of other chakras. Too much of a good thing can actually be a bad thing, because the balance of the overall system is what is key.
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