The Stages of Kundalini Shifts – Growing Into the New You
“Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light.” – Theodore Roethke
As I mentioned in the first article in this Kundalini Series, the image most often used in yogic teachings to explain kundalini is that of a coiled snake resting at the base of our spine, waiting to awaken. But I actually prefer the image of a seed sprouting deep in the ground, and pushing upwards towards the sun. Like a seed, each of us is pure potential, and it is our innate spiritual yearning that compels us to crack our shell, push through barriers, and reach for the light. This is the journey of the kundalini rising.
Our kundalini rises because of our own spiritual yearning. The part of us that wishes to know ourselves fully as Source or Light (or whatever word you wish to use) calls our kundalini to action. Whether this comes about because of formal spiritual practices we do, a teacher transmission (‘shaktipat’), or is spontaneously triggered by a significant life event or crises, the result is the same – the kundalini pushes through blocks stored in the energetic and etheric levels of our being.
Think of a river when it becomes flooded, and the water rushes through previously impassable spots, pushing up tree roots, moving rocks, and rearranging the landscape. This is what happens in your subtle body when you undergo a kundalini shift. It might be a little flood, barely felt by you, or it might be a big one, transforming your entire world. Because our subtle body represents the intersection of mind, body, and spirit, you might experience the results of this reshaping on any of these levels.
Although the process unfolds differently for each of us, there are several main stages of kundalini shifts. Depending on the intensity of a particular shift, you may experience these over the course of days, weeks, or even years. If you experience multiple shifts in a lifetime, you may in fact have one shift you are working through over the course of your entire life, while cycling through other, smaller shifts throughout that time as well. The possibilities are as individual as the number of beings there are in the universe. The purpose of the guide below is to provide some kind of map and advice that might help you process, and ultimately integrate, your own kundalini shifts.
Stage 1 – Bliss and Bursts
One of the main byproducts of kundalini shifts is bliss – feelings of liquid light moving through your being in gentle, but powerful, waves. This might happen within a meditation session, or spontaneously throughout your day. It’s a beautiful and at times ecstatic experience, but it’s not really the point. Enjoy the wonderful feelings when they arise, but don’t get attached or strive to recreate them once they have run their course, or you’ll get stuck. They are a means to an end, not the end itself.
Another way that kundalini shifts might initially manifest is as physical energy bursts. You might feel very restless, as if you need to shake or sway, or experience spontaneous movements (‘kriyas.’) This is your physical body’s way of processing the new level of energy moving through your subtle body. As I mentioned in last month’s article, a kundalini shift is like a wattage upgrade, and your physical body is the circuit board or outlet – it has to learn to handle the new flow. The best thing you can do during this time is attend to your physical health, exercise, and stay grounded. (Along these lines, notice how the sunflower seed in the picture above first develops roots, before growing upward – this is absolutely the best advice for handling a kundalini shift.)
Stage 2 – Growth Spurt
Like a kid after a growth spurt, after a kundalini shift it often feels as if nothing in your life fits you anymore. Almost overnight, your home décor may feel outdated, your wardrobe shabby, your friends disconnected, and your career stagnated. It’s not unusual for even food and color preferences to dramatically change. You may have been perfectly content with your life before, and now suddenly, everything feels old, or even constraining.
What has happened is that your base of perception, your awareness ‘set-point’, has shifted. A part of the old you is now gone, and you are still forming the new you. You really have two choices at this point: Try to stuff yourself back into your old life, or embrace the change. Which you choose will largely determine how you experience the rest of the stages in your shift.
If you try to go backwards, you will probably have a much more difficult time during Stages 3 and 4. If you embrace the changes you feel you need to make, set realistic goals for how to bring them about, and approach these goals with wisdom, clarity, and compassion, at the end of your shift, you will most likely have a beautiful new life – one that more closely reflects who you now are.
Of course this doesn’t mean making rash decisions, which can be a tendency at this stage. While sometimes we truly are called to transform our entire life overnight and embark on a new direction, more often we are better served by slower, more considered, steps towards change.
Part of the frustration we experience after major shifts stems from the difference between the material and spiritual rates of change. On the spiritual level, we might be filled with inspiration and ideas for what we want to manifest, but the material world usually moves at a slower pace, and we need to go through the proper steps and sequence. In the physical world, a flower is subject to the laws of nature.
Stage 3 – Emotion Motion
At some point after a shift, it’s common to feel as if you’ve gotten on an emotional roller coaster. You may experience mood swings and feel especially sensitive to the emotions of others. Women are especially prone to both, because our kundalini ‘home base’ is in our second, or sacral, chakra rather than our first chakra, and the second chakra is linked to our emotional body. Our subtle body also tends to be more sensitive to others’ emotions, so altogether women are more likely to experience both strong emotions, and strong swings.
There are two main shifts occurring at this point. First, as the kundalini moves through your energy body, it often unleashes new intuitive and energetic abilities. You may suddenly be able to ‘see’ things you weren’t able to before, and become much more aware of energetic subtleties in people and your environment. As you develop these, they can become true psychic and healing skills, but initially, the increased sensitivity may feel overwhelming. Taking some extra time to yourself, and focusing on self-care, will see you through this adjustment.
Contributing to emotional swings is any resistance you may feel to the growth you are undergoing. Old fears, insecurities, and attachments may rise up within you. You might feel frustrated if you’ve dealt with these emotions before, thinking you have gone backward on your path. But often, these are the final residue of old emotional patterns that have been hiding out in the deep recesses of your being. Your kundalini ‘flood’ has stirred them up, and brought them to the surface for you to completely face and resolve. Spend some time journaling, engaging in self-inquiry, or working with a counselor to work through this stage.
Stage 4 – School of Life
This stage is really the heart of the kundalini shifting process: What lessons do you need to learn? After a shift, your life resettles into a new pattern, and typically new themes – or old themes in a new guise! – show up in your life for you to begin to work on. This might mean new goals or opposition to reaching goals, new relationships or relationship challenges, or new situations that call upon a part of your being that you haven’t had to access before.
If a lot of emotional residue was kicked up during your shift (see Stage 3), then you can be sure that any challenges you face as part of your lessons will be sure to trigger them even more. This isn’t always the case though, and the more you go through this process, the less you are interested in resisting, and the gentler and happier your lessons can be. Growth doesn’t have to hurt, and in fact, there’s no reason for it to. Most often, it’s our own resistance that causes us pain.
It’s important to remind yourself at this point that you asked for this. It’s your own desire to grow, your own spiritual longing, that triggered the entire process in the first place. Enjoy your push to the sun! Center yourself in compassion, wisdom, and your connection to the divine, and you will always see yourself through. You are being an offered an opportunity to grow and shift into a new level of happiness and liberation.
Stage 5 – Integration
We don’t usually notice this stage, because it’s not marked by change. If we look back though, we can often see the evolution we have undergone. We are now comfortable in our new skin, our new perspective, and our new energy level. We have released our old emotional residue, and come to a new level of peace and understanding. We have grown up, on some fundamental level.
In a way though, for seekers kundalini shifts never complete, because while we are finishing up the cycle of one, we are probably already deep in the throes of another. We do have quiet periods, or lulls in the activity, when we are resting and regrouping. Or we might choose to slow down for a while, which is always an option. But ultimately, as the much tweeted saying goes, ‘we are spiritual beings having a human experience’, and so our spiritual desire eventually comes to the fore once again, triggering a new cycle. Enjoy the ride!
The meditation below is mostly meant to help with stages 3 and 4 as described in this article, but you can do it at any time. As I mentioned last month, the meditations offered in this series are not a form of kundalini activation or transmission, nor are they practices within a formal kundalini tradition. Instead, they are gentle energy work exercises designed to help you connect and activate your own kundalini (last month), and clear, smooth, and integrate shifts (this month.)
Kundalini Integration Meditation Stream: