What is Kundalini?

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Kundalini is a subtle energy and consciousness that is said (in Yogic and Tantric scriptures) to be coiled at the base of the spine 31/2 times, holding our system in stasis during our lives. If it uncoils and awakens, either through spiritual practices, breathing practices, near-death experiences or by other means, it moves upward through the sushumna, a subtle energy field which follows the spine, opening chakras and brain centers and changing the way the body feels and the quality of awareness. This upward movement may be sudden or it may be gradual over weeks and months and even years or lifetimes. This awakening is also acknowledged under other names in many other spiritual traditions, including Taoism, Tantric Buddhism, Gnostic mystical traditions, and some Native American practices. In some cases the energy awakening flows through channels other than sushumna, triggering a wide range of phenomena, either positive or negative.

Kundalini awakening brings about great changes in the psyche, the body and the spiritual capacity of the one who experiences it. Depending on the intensity of the experience, and the channels through which it moves in our bodies, many phenomena may occur. The person who has a sudden awakening needs a context and understanding of this experience, because it may cause an eruption of energy (involuntary movements, jerking, vibrations), psychic phenomena (precognition, visions, inner sounds), altered states of consciousness (out-of-body experience, other-life recall, states of ecstasy or unitive consciousness or a sense of a void -- a sense of limitlessness), psychological difficulties, and many physical manifestations (heat, energy problems, eating and sleeping difficulties, heart sensations, pains, stomach problems and other conditions.)

Kundalini awakening offers a profound opportunity for those who are called to follow a spiritual path. It can also lead to sudden expansion of creativity and intelligence, emotional depth, and a call to service in the world. Ultimately it is an invitation to release all the patterns and delusions about your personal identity and realize the essence of your existence, or the Self (also known as the non-Self in Buddhist traditions.) Because everyone enters this process with a unique history and set of habits and beliefs, there can be much variation in how we adjust to the changes and the insights that follow a spiritual awakening. It is threatening to the ego-structure and frightening for many to feel a loss of boundaries, or experience a fragmenting of the sense of personal control. But the energy and consciousness that awakens in us can lead us directly into a profound understanding of who we are, when it is well supported. Ultimately life becomes more open and free, more acceptable as it is, more loving and compassionate. You become grounded in the Truth.

Like any energy of creation (prana, electricity, atoms) this energy can be activated and misused by people who seek only power and do not follow a spiritual motivation. Many teachers with activated kundalini energy have not reached the full potential of this process, and are therefore not free of personal drives and negative intentions. You can recognize a teacher who has completed this path successfully by the measure of understanding, wisdom, love and selfless service they demonstrate. A fully awakened teacher has no hunger for personal gain or recognition and will always encourage you to honor the guru within. Such people's lives are marked by simplicity and presence.

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