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Kundalini is a psycho-spiritual energy, the energy of the consciousness, which is thought to reside within the sleeping body, and is aroused either through spiritual discipline or spontaneously to bring new states of consciousness, including mystical illumination. Kundalini is Sanskrit for "snake" or "serpent power," so-called because it is believed to lie like a serpent in the root chakra at the base of the spine. In Tantra Yoga kundalini is an aspect of Shakti, the divine female energy and consort of Shiva.(see also Tantrism) The power of kundalini is said to be enormous. Those having experienced it claim it to be indescribable. The phenomena associated with it varies from bizarre physical sensations and movements, pain, clairaudience, visions, brilliant lights, superlucidity, psychical powers, ecstasy, bliss, and transcendence of self. Kundalini has been described as liquid fire and liquid light. Indian yoga, with its emphasis on the transmutation of energy to higher consciousness, was the chief contributor to the cultivation of kundalini and the preservation of its knowledge prior to present times. Kundalini was a rarity in the West before the 1970s until more attention became centered upon the consciousness. In 1932, for example, psychiatrist Carl G. Jung and others observed that the kundalini experience was seldom seen in the West. However, an examination of mystical literature and traditions showed that kundalini, called by various names, seems to have been a universal phenomenon in esoteric teachings for perhaps three thousand years. Kundalini-type descriptions or experiences are found in esoteric teachings of the Egyptians, Tibetans, Chinese, some Native Americans, and the !Kung bushmen of Africa. Kundalini has been interpreted from the Bible as
"the solar principle in man," and is referenced in the Koran, the works of Plato and other Greek philosophers, alchemical tracts (the philosopher's stone), and in Hermetic, Kabbalistic, Rosicrucian, and Masonic writings.
There has been an awakening of kundalini knowledge among the Western populations since the 1970s because of two major reasons: more people who are trained in the spiritual disciplines are likely to release the energy, and the increased number of people that are aware of kundalini are more likely to recognize its symptoms or benefits. Not all kundalini experiences are identical to those classical awakenings experienced in yoga, but may vary in intensity and duration.
Typically the yogi meditates to arouse the kundalini and then to raise it through his or her body. (It should be remembered though, not all types of yoga are devoted to the arousal of kundalini.) First, the yogi feels the sensation on heat at the base of the spine, which may be intensely hot or pleasantly warm. The energy then travels up a psychic pathway parallel to the spinal column. The sushumna is the central axis, crisscrossed in a helix by the ida and pingala. As it rises the kundalini activates the chakras in succession. The body becomes cold and corpse-like as the kundalini leaves the lower portions and begins to rise. The yogi is likely to shudder, tremble, or rock violently, feel extreme heat and cold, hear strange but not unpleasant sounds, and see various kinds of lights including an inner light. The length of the kundalini may be fleeting or last several minutes. The objective is to raise the kundalini to the crown chakra, where it unites with the Shiva, or the male polarity, and brings illumination. The yogi then attempts to lower the energy to another chakra, but not below the heart chakra because descent to lower chakras is thought to produce ego inflation, rampant sexual desire, and a host of other ills. By repeatedly raising the kundalini to the crown, the yogi can succeed in having the energy permanently stay there. It is said that kundalini opens new pathways in the nervous system; the pain associated with this apparently is due to the nervous system's inability to immediately copy with the energy.
Yogis assert that the body must be properly attuned for kundalini through yoga.
Other individuals, it has been determined by Western psychologists and psychiatrists, have experienced kundalini awakenings but not the explosive kind. One notable characteristic of these lesser awakenings is that the individual thinks, acts, and feels remarkably different. Symptoms may involve involuntary and spasmodic body movements and postures; pain; abnormal breathing patterns; paralysis; tickling itching; vibrating sensations; hot and cold sensations; inner sounds, such as roaring, whistling, and chirping; insomnia; hypersensitivity to environment; unusual or extremes of emotions; intensified sex drive; distortion of thought processes; detachment; disassociation; sensations of physical expansion; and out-of-body experiences (OBEs). Generally the elimination of such symptoms can be brought about by a heavier diet and temporary cessation of meditation. The phenomena of these lesser kundalini awakenings seem to indicate that the definition may have to be expanded from that of the coiled serpent of yoga. Such experienced awakenings are difficult to definitely define though because scientific research of kundalini energy is still in its embryonic stages, little is known of the energy's nonphysical nature, and many of its symptoms are similar to those associated with mental disturbances and stress. One of the most dramatic instances of classic kundalini awakening was experienced by Copi Krishna (1903-1984), of India, who meditated for three hours every morning over seventeen years. On Christmas Day, 1937, he had his explosive awakening with kundalini pouring up his spine. By his personal account, he rocked out of his body and was enveloped in a halo of light. His consciousness expanded in every direction, and a vision of luster unfolded before him; he was like a small cork bobbing on a vast ocean of consciousness. This extraordinary experienced occurred once again, and then Krishna was plunged into twelve years of misery, during which he "experienced the indescribable ecstasies of the mystics…and the agonies of the mentally afflicted." Following twelve years his body apparently adapted to the new energy and stabilized, but he was permanently changed. Everything in his vision was bathed in a silvery light. He heard an inner cadence, called the "unstruck melody" in kundalini literature. Eventually he could experience bliss just by turning his attention inward. He became, as he said, "a pool of consciousness always aglow with light." His creativity soared allowing him to write poetry and nonfiction books. Krishna devotedly spent most of the remainder of his life learning the secrets of kundalini. He considered it "the most jealously guarded secret in history" and "the guardian of human evolution." To him it was the driving force behind genius and inspiration. He also thought within the brain is the blueprint to evolve humankind to a higher consciousness, one that makes use of kundalini. Too, he believed kundalini could improve the health of humankind with its ability to regenerate and restore the body, to lengthen life, and eradicate such conditions as mental retardation. Krishna made ever effort increase the cultivation of kundalini in the West. Many researchers followed him, but some disagreed with the importance that he gave kundalini.
Kundalini is a Sanskrit word meaning either "coiled up" or "coiling like a snake." There are a number of other translations of the term usually emphasizing a more serpent nature to the word - e.g. 'serpent power'.
The caduceus symbol of coiling snakes is thought to be an ancient symbolic representation of Kundalini physiology.
The concept of Kundalini comes from yogic philosophy of ancient India and refers to the mothering intelligence behind yogic awakening and spiritual maturation. It might be regarded by yogis as a sort of deity, hence the occasional capitalization of the term.
Within a western frame of understanding it is often associated with the practice of contemplative or religious practices that might induce an altered state of consciousness, either brought about spontaneously, through a type of yoga, through psychedelic drugs, or through a near-death experience.
According to the yogic tradition Kundalini is curled up in the back part of the root chakra in three and one-half turns around the sacrum. Yogic phenomenology states that kundalini awakening is associated with the appearance of bio-energetic phenomena that are said to be experienced somatically by the yogi.
This appearance is also referred to as "pranic awakening". Prana is interpreted as the vital, life-sustaining force in the body. Uplifted, or intensified life-energy is called pranotthana and is supposed to originate from an apparent reservoir of subtle bio-energy at the base of the spine. This energy is also interpreted as a vibrational phenomena that initiates a period, or a process of vibrational spiritual development.
The source text for the concept of kundalini is the "Hatha Yoga Pradipika" written by Swami Svatmarama (English translation, 1992) somewhere between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries. Any examination of the topic should include this work. The pradipika is one of the later developments in yoga sacred texts. Hatha Yoga is strictly speaking a forcing technique which has as its primary aim the forcing of the arising of kundalini.
The main emphasis is a difficult regime of breathing techniques meant to increase the store of "prana" in the body. The well known physical postures are only meant to be an aid to maintain peak physical fitness, so as to support the real work of the breathing practices. All of this has, according to tradition, to be accompanied by prolonged and unbroken meditation practise (for which the main text is the "Yoga Sutras of Patanjali"). The text adds that great good fortune is another requirement, i.e.luck, for the procedure to succeed. However, these techniques are not without dangers.
The Interpretation of Kundalini
Two early western interpretations of Kundalini were supplied by C.W. Leadbeater (1847-1934), of the Theosophical Society, and the analytical psychologist Carl Jung (18751961).
Jung's seminar on Kundalini yoga, presented to the Psychological Club in Zurich in 1932, has been widely regarded as a milestone in the psychological understanding of Eastern thought and of the symbolic transformations of inner peace. Kundalini yoga presented Jung with a model for the developmental phases of higher consciousness, and he interpreted its symbols in terms of the process of individuation. (Princeton University Press Book description to C. G Jung - "The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga", 1999).
A few western translators interpret the energetic phenomena as a form of psychic or paranormal energy, although the western parapsychological understanding of psychic energy, separated from its cultural-hermeneutic matrix, is probably not the same as the yogic understanding. Yogic philosophy understands this concept as a maturing energy that expresses the individual's soteriological longings. Viewed in a mythological context it is sometimes believed to be an aspect of Shakti, the goddess and consort of Shiva.
Kundalini might be said to be a popular concept, since it is widely quoted among various disciplines of yoga and New Age beliefs. However, the recent popularization of the term within new religious movements has - according to some scholars of religion - not contributed to promote a mature understanding of the concept (Sovatsky, 1998). As with many eastern contemplative concepts there exist considerable difficulties, and possible semantic confusion, connected to the way these concepts are adapted to a western context.
This has led to somewhat different interpretations and applications of the concept of Kundalini within the spiritual and contemplative culture in the west. On the one hand there are the New Age popularizations, and on the other hand there is the traditional lineage of Kundalini Yoga understood from its cultural background and interpreted within the academic fields of Religious Studies, Pastoral Theology and Transpersonal/Humanistic psychology. With the tools of these academic traditions it is possible to give different interpretations to theconcept of Kundalini; such as physiological interpretations, psychological interpretations, clinical interpretations, religious interpretations, mythological interpretations and spiritual interpretations.
Kundalini in the World's Religions Kundalini is mainly associated with Hinduism. However, Kundalini as a spiritual experience is thought to have parallels in many of the mystical and gnostic traditions of the world's great religions. Many factors point to the universality of the phenomenon. The early Christians might have referred to the concept as 'pneuma', and there are some recent parallels in contemporary Christian Charismatic 'Holy Ghost' phenomena. Religious studies also note parallels in Quakerism, Shakerism, Judaic Shuckling (torso-rocking prayer), the swaying zikr and whirling dervish of Islam, the quiverings of the Eastern Orthodox hesychast, the flowing movements of tai chi, the ecstatic shamanic dance, the ntum trance dance of the Bushman, Tibetan Buddhist tummo heat as practised by Milarepa, and the Indically-derived Andalusian flamenco (Sovatsky, 1998). Kundalini practice is centerfold in Japan's Aum Shinrikyo group and Kundalini-yoga is also one of the stages the practitioner is able to achieve.
Kundalini Rising According to yogic terminology the force of Kundalini is supposed to be raised through meditative exercises and activated within the concept of a subtle body, a body of energy and finer substance. This process has been explained in detail by Motoyama (1981) and by Sharp (2005). Motoyama bases the bulk of the Kundalini raising practices listed in the book on the notable Swami Satyananda Saraswati, as well as on personal experience in helping people in various stages of Kundalini awakening. Sharp provides a kundalini meditation called The Great Invocation along with detailed guidance on controlling and managing the energy flow and subsequent manifestation. Kundalini-experiences are often understood in terms of the Hindu chakra system, the understanding of psycho-spiritual energy centers along the spine (Scotton, 1996). According to Hindu tradition the Kundalini raises from the root-chakra up through the spinal channel, called sushumna, and it is believed to activate each chakra it goes through.
Each chakra is said to contain special characteristics (Scotton, 1996). In raising Kundalini, spiritual powers (siddhis) are also believed to arise, but many spiritual traditions see these phenomena as obstacles on the path, and encourages their students not to get hung up with them (Kason, 2000). Although the opening of higher chakras are believed to mark advanced spiritual unfoldment, it is important not to measure spiritual growth solely by the opening of higher potentials. According to this view chakras might be under- or overdeveloped, and lower chakras are thought to be just as important as higher.
Spiritual literature also describes instances where Kundalini is said to be initiated. Initiation of kundalini activity is usually considered to take place by a practice called shaktipat. This is a form of 'laying on of hands' where physical contact to the body or the forehead of the subject by the guru, or initiator, is supposed to cause an experience of Kundalini that later may persist or grow with continuing practice, or fade away if practice is stopped. Scotton (1996) mentions that kundalini-symptomatology is associated with such practices as shaktipat. He also gives a case-example of such a practice from an American meditation retreat.
According to much contemporary spiritual literature, and the field of Transpersonal Psychology, it is not considered wise to engage in any of these practices without the guidance of a credible teacher or without thorough psychological preparation and education in yoga. Any form of intense contemplative or spiritual practice without the support of a cultural context, or without the support of thorough psychological preparation, is usually considered to be unfortunate, and in some cases even dangerous. Traditional teachers of kundalini meditation also warn neophytes of the potential dangers of experimenting with kundalini Yoga techniques. These warnings should not be underestimated. A growing body of clinical and psychological literature notes the growing occurrence of meditation-related problems in Western contemplative life. Among these we find the Kundalini Syndrome (which is presented more closely later in this article) and different forms of "wind illness" described in the Tibetan tradition.
Theorists within the schools of Humanistic psychology, Transpersonal psychology and Near-Death Studies describe a complex pattern of motor functions, sensory, affective and cognitive-hermeneutic symptoms called the Kundalini Syndrome. This psychosomatic arousal and excitation is believed to occur in connection with prolonged and intensive spiritual or contemplative practice (such as meditation or yoga) or as a result of intense life experience or a near encounter with death (such as a near-death experience).
According to these fields of study the Kundalini syndrome is of a different nature than a single Kundalini episode, such as a Kundalini arousal. The Kundalini syndrome is a process that might unfold over several months, or even years. If the accompanying symptoms unfold in an intense manner - that de-stabilizes the person - the process is usually interpreted as what Stanislav Grof has termed "spiritual emergency"
Interdisciplinary dialogues within the mentioned schools of psychology (see references below) have now established some common criteria in order to describe this condition, of which the most prominent feature is a feeling of energy travelling along the spine, or progressing upwards in the body. Motor symptoms are said to include tremors, other spontaneous or involuntary body movements and changes in respiratory function.
Sensory symptoms are said to include subjective changes in body temperature - feelings of heat or cold - a feeling of electricity in the body, persistent sexual arousal syndrome, headache and pressure inside of the head, tingling, vibrations and gastro-intestinal problems. Cognitive and affective symptoms are said to include psychological upheaval, stress, depression, depersonalization or derealization, intense mood-swings, but also moments of bliss, deep peace and other altered states of consciousness. Within the mentioned academic traditions this symptomatology is often referred to as the Physio-Kundalini syndrome or Kundalini-experience Awakening.
Transpersonal literature emphasizes that this list of symptoms is not meant to be used as a tool for self-diagnosis. Any unusual or marked physical or mental symptom needs to be investigated by a qualified medical doctor.
Kundalini and Physiology Contemporary spiritual literature often notes that the chakras, as described in the esoteric kundalini documents, bear a strong similarity in location and number to the major endocrine glands, as well as nerve bundles called ganglions.
One speculation is that the traditional practices have formalized a method for stimulating the endocrine glands to work in a different mode which has a more direct effect on consciousness, perhaps ultimately by stimulating the release of DMT by the pineal gland, which may be analogous to the 'pineal chakra'.
The late Itzhak Bentov studied Kundalini from an engineering perspective. According to Bentov (1990), the 7.5 Hz oscillation of the heart muscle rhythm induces mechanical Hz frequencies in the brain, that in turn create a stimulus equivalent of a current loop. The nerve endings in that loop correspond to the route through which the Kundalini "rises".
This current polarizes the brain part through which it flows in a homogenous way, effectively releasing tremendous amounts of stress from the body. The body then becomes an effective antenna for the 7.5 Hz frequency, which is one of the resonant frequencies of the ionosphere. In layman's terms, you then pick up information from the air. This might account for repeated descriptions of heightened senses as a result of rising Kundalini, e.g. as described by Yogananda: "The whole vicinity lay bare before me. My ordinary frontal vision was now changed to a vast spherical sight, simultaneously all-perceptive."
Pathological Kundalini When practiced in a religious context, Kundalini is mostly beneficial and benevolent. However, examples exist of historical figures suffering from kundalini symptoms, such as zen master Hakuin, Saint Theresa, and Nietzsche. The physiological precursors of kundalini also have the potential to diverge into some peculiar types of pathology, as when induced via violence and outside a religious context, where it may be part of a post-traumatic response. Post-traumatic stress disorder researcher Dr. Jonathan Shay (1994) describes several cases with kundalini-like symptoms in his book Achilles in Vietnam.
According to transpersonal theorists the phenomenon of kundalini is not necessarily pathological in itself, but it might produce serious physiological and psychodynamic symptoms if it is activated outside a proper socio-cultural context, or if it conflicts with already existing and underlying psychopathology or issues connected to overall human development.
The coiled and dormant 'feminine' energy, refers to the vast potential of psychic energy contained within us all. It is normally symbolized as a serpent coiled into three and a half circles, with its tail in its mouth, and spiraling around the central axis (sacrum or sacred bone) at the base of the spine. The awakening of this serpent and the manifestation of its powers is a primary aim of the practice of Kundalini Yoga. The image of coiling, like a spring, conveys the sense of untapped potential energy that will spring into action soon. For now we remember in small doses.
Kundalini can be described as a great reservoir of creative energy at the base of the spine. It's not useful to sit with our consciousness fixed in our head and think of kundalini as a foreign force running up and down our spine. The concept of kundalini can also be examined from a strictly psychological perspective. From this perspective kundalini can be thought of as a rich source of psychic or libidinous energy in our unconscious.
Tapping into Kundalini Energy
- Activating Your DNA - Opening your Clairvoyant and Clairaudient abilities. - Feeling connected to the oneness of the universe - Your mind feels expanded in its quest for higher awareness and knowledge - Allowing your ego to step aside and connecting with higher frequency of thought and consciousness - Feeling unconditional love, peace, and connection with spirit
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