With the start of the New Year, many of us turn our attention to attaining goals and keeping resolutions. But any true change is grounded in a shift in our awareness – we can will our way through for a while, but change only sticks long term when we are able to click into a new mode of perceiving and thinking. Modern neuroscience backs this up, with an increased understanding of what it takes to overwrite old neuro-patterns with new, healthier ones.
From a spiritual perspective, kundalini is the energy of change. A lot of mystique and jargon surrounds the traditional teachings on kundalini. But it is a natural energy that moves through us in varying degrees all of the time. We can all learn to feel this beautiful power within us, and to work with it as the organic, transformative energy that it is.
A common image used to explain kundalini is that of a snake coiled latent at the base of our spine. Through spiritual practices – traditionally yoga, meditation, and pranayama (breathing practices) – we ‘awaken’ the snake, and the kundalini makes its way up through our chakra system. As it does so, it clears blocks – the energetic component of our emotional wounds, mental conditioning, psychological blocks, and limiting perceptions. As each of these are nudged to the surface of our subtle body, the opportunity to grow beyond them arises. As the kundalini moves all the way through our subtle body into our crown, we experience a new sense of union with the divine.
There are volumes written on kundalini – on how to prepare for it, how to activate it, how to manage it, and what to expect. For most of us though, I think there are 5 basic points that are the most important to understand about kundalini:
- Kundalini movement is normal and natural, and happens to most of us at some point. Kundalini is the energy of spiritual consciousness, and of awakened mind. Whenever an event occurs in our life that triggers deep shifts in our understanding, our kundalini has been awakened to some extent, and movement has occurred. While there are many kundalini preparation and triggering practices, awakenings aren’t limited to those who utilize them, or to traditions that do. Mystics throughout the ages from virtually every spiritual tradition have described very similar experiences, all of which can be seen as kundalini awakenings. To study kundalini is to study the technical underpinnings of awakening – the ‘how’. This isn’t necessary or even of interest to everyone, but it can be helpful.
- Kundalini doesn’t just rise once – and it doesn’t just rise! We often hear about the ‘kundalini rising’, and in a general sense, the movement of the kundalini from our root to our crown chakra is the trajectory of spiritual growth. But the kundalini doesn’t simply rise once through our system and catapult us into enlightenment. It moves through in stages, each time clearing on a deeper level, and each time shifting us into a more expansive understanding of ourselves and the universe. (I’ll cover the experiences and life lessons associated with shifts at each chakric level in next month’s article.)
Kundalini also doesn’t only rise – it moves downward too! Teachings on kundalini vary, and some traditions distinguish between different kinds of kundalini, some that flow from root to crown and others from crown to root. Upward-flowing kundalini is linked to spiritual seeking – our journey from knowing ourselves as finite, material beings to knowing ourselves as part of the infinite, cosmic flow. Downward kundalini is linked to manifesting spiritual understanding and goals on the physical plane. Both may clear blocks, and both are equally important to our spiritual – and human – journey.
Formal kundalini meditation practices are traditionally focused on the upward path, but for many people the greatest lessons come when we attempt to manifest in our lives from spiritual insight. Doing this is like trying to plant a kundalini tree in the earth – we are literally attempting to bring the kundalini through us from spirit to matter. So while the upward path is usually meditation and contemplation-based, the downward path is action and manifestation-based. Many of us like a mixture of both!
- Kundalini movement is beautiful and pleasant, most of the time. Stories of kundalini ‘emergencies’ have left many people fearful of kundalini, and it’s true that overdoing practices specifically designed to bring it up quickly without proper supervision, are never a good idea. But most kundalini shifts are either so subtle that we don’t register them, or are beautiful and blissful. We may feel waves of light or tingles moving through our body, upswellings of love or joy, bursts of creative ideas, expansive spiritual epiphanies, or sudden insights. What’s not to like?
Warnings about kundalini are based in the fact that if we pull too much through too fast, it can feel as if we’ve short-circuited our system. Just like electrical circuits, we each begin life able to handle a certain amp level. If too much kundalini shoots through before we are ready, we may experience bodily or psychological symptoms that are uncomfortable and distracting. But in most cases, we will naturally adapt to the change with time and self-care, and it’s nothing to worry about. (Of course anyone who experiences serious health or mental instabilities as the result of kundalini rising too fast should work with a professional healer or therapist to manage it – because this is rare, it isn’t something I’ll be covering much in this series.)
- A grounded body and mind are the best preparation for kundalini shifts. Just like electrical sockets have to be grounded to safely conduct electrical currents, so our body and mind needs to be grounded to conduct kundalini. From a physical perspective, grounded means living a healthy lifestyle, being comfortable and strong in our body, and connecting regularly to nature in a real and fulfilling way. From a psychological perspective, grounded means we are centered in a healthy sense of self and reality. We may still have issues to work through, but we have a foundation of self-esteem and mental stability.
Most of the formal spiritual practices meant to prepare someone for kundalini work revolve around strengthening mind and body. Physical yoga in fact partly developed as a method for doing both. Inquiry practice, mindfulness, and concentration meditation are all also means of strengthening both our mind and self-awareness. While doing these in a formal way is usually only necessary for someone engaged in explicit kundalini awakening work, they are all good practices for managing spontaneous kundalini movements when they occur (and of course they all have other benefits too!)
- Seeking in the form that truly inspires you is the best way to awaken your kundalini. You don’t have to fit yourself into a certain mold to get your kundalini moving. Any sincere form of spiritual seeking – one inspired by true questioning and desire – will pull this beautiful power through you to some degree. Situations or practices that open your heart and encourage self-honesty, or that are based in true inquiry, will trigger shifts. The only thing that shuts down our kundalini is stagnation – a rigid mind or frozen heart. True spiritual seeking is itself fueled by the Source or spirit already awake within us, and the kundalini moves when we open even more to this urge.
Of course, you may want to work more consciously with your kundalini, and to tune-in to its subtle shifts in your energy body. The guided meditations included in this 3-part series are designed to help you do exactly this. They are not kundalini transmissions, but instead guided techniques that you can use to gently increase your own connection to your kundalini, and to support its movement within you.
In this first meditation, I will guide you through developing a strong foundation for kundalini work, and then use visualizations to help you urge both an upward and downward flow. Then we will focus on your root, heart, and third eye chakras, as these are each unique gateways in the kundalini rising process. This is a meditation you can do once, or over and over – it is gentle enough to repeat at will, although of course don’t if it makes you uncomfortable in any way.
Be sure to check back next month for the second article in this series, in which I will talk more about the life lessons that arise as the kundalini moves to loosen blocks on our spiritual pathway.
Meditation: Gentle Kundalini Movement – Stream: