Thursday, February 26, 2015

Surrender

Surrender, from the context of which I am writing, does not mean “giving up.” It means “letting go;” more specifically, letting go of something of lessor value in order to attain something of greater value.
acceptance and change, surrender

This notion of surrender has an important significance in Christian Meditation, a prayer discipline I have followed for many years. The rules for this discipline are based on the premises of silence, stillness, and simplicity. Learning to meditate is learning to “let go” of your thoughts, ideas and imagination and to rest in the depths of your own being. The Inner Divine cannot be accessed through one’s own willful striving. Just as we cannot extinguish a fire by using fire, we cannot transcend the ego by using the ego. So we wait in silence and stillness, repeating our mantra until the wall of the ego is relaxed and transcended. This involves a surrender of the exterior false self with all of its self-definitions (I am this, I am that) to discover that which exists beyond “self.” For me, this transcendent experience was a dissolving of the “I” into a shimmering blissful lake of Divine light.

surrender, Christian meditation
     
The fourteenth century Christian mystic, Ruysbrock, describes surrender in this way.

  • Believe and accept through Grace that the God dwells within, and therefore turn within to discover and expect to find God dwelling within you.
  • Be diligent to rid yourself of all distracting thoughts, images and attachments of the heart to any created being or thing, to escape into God. Guard your outward senses from all worldly attractions which cling so easily, to be carried away in union with God.
  • Freely turn your will towards God so that your whole being is absorbed and directed by His presence - body, mind and spirit — in complete dependence and submission.
  • Acknowledge your inability of doing this on your own. Only in faith is this possible. So surrender to God, and allow your souls to be over-powered and absorbed into oneness with Him.
Gerald May in his book “Will and Spirit” describes the qualities of surrender in this way:

It is intentional: It is the result of the free and unencumbered use of one’s will. It is a free choice, never forced or compelled in any way.

It is conscious: One is wide awake and aware of everything that is happening at the time of surrender. There is no dullness or robotic mindlessness.

It involves responsibility for the consequences as well as for the act itself: We are willing to accept the full consequences of whatever may result from the surrender. We let go of ego involvement in the desire to surrender. We accept the consequences of "letting go" even if it may appear to have a negative result.

It is not directed toward any fully known object: Thus it cannot in anyway be a means of furthering one’s self-definition or self-importance. It must be directed toward that which exists beyond all images and concepts.

It represents a willingness to engage the fullness of life with the fullness of oneself: It cannot be an escape or avoidance. It must be a “yes” rather than a “no.” We are intentional in our desire for fullness.

So what has all this to do with Kundalini?

From my experiences with Christian Meditation and Kundalini, both involve a surrender; a letting go. Other than that, they are very different.

How are they different?

First of all, it was my involvement with Christian Meditation that triggered the beginnings of Kundalini. Christian Meditation is a prayer discipline to encourage letting go of our physical, intellectual and sensing activities that connect and identify us with the exterior world in order to transcend ego and bring us in touch with the inner Divine Presence often referred to as the True Self.

Kundalini, on the other hand, is a release of energy from the base of the spine that relentlessly moves through the physical and subtle bodies with its own intelligently motivated agenda. This agenda is to bring all aspects of the human metabolism (both physical and subtle) into a state of wholeness. This energy does this through a process of renovating the physical and subtle bodies to modify or remove anything that may be an obstacle to wholeness. Kundalini discerns its own path and method, separating the wheat to be kept from the chaff to be modified or destroyed. This modification will include all or many of our false beliefs, values and assumptions, even those which were previously important to us.

Once the Kundalini process has begun, we must surrender to the process. All of the qualities of surrender stated above (Gerald May) apply to Kundalini. I understand from my reading that any resistance to Kundalini’s agenda once triggered will only result in suffering and hardship. Since I had no knowledge of Kundalini at the time of its rising, I assumed it was a spiritually renewing event triggered from my intense meditation. So I embraced it fully despite some discomfort and confusion that resulted at the time. I surrendered to it as I had surrendered to my meditation discipline, always with an underlying intuitive knowing that everything was unfolding as it should.

Kundalini often takes us by surprise with radical results. It turns our world up-side down. We suddenly see life differently. I speak for myself when I say that it is very easy to get caught up in the Kundalini phenomena, and become fascinated and attached to the process itself, particularly the freedom and bliss associated with it. I often had to ask myself one very important question: What is the purpose of the Kundalini experience?

The answer that I receive is always the same: So that we may become engaged in the world in a more wholesome and beneficial way.

Kundalini frees us from the dullness and obstacles of past conditioning and traumas. It breaks down the walls of the ego found in the “ahankara” mental sheath, and releases us from those strong attachment to “self” with its rigidity, inflexibility, and tight boundaries. It takes us away from that sense of “being separate” and allows us to see and experience our connection with every living being and thing.

drops and the ocean, part of the whole

A further surrender to which I am now called is to let go of the fascination and attachment to the Kundalini experience itself and how it has affected me to embrace more fully the life to which it has called me to live.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Selection of a Kundalini Activation Method

Some people have the luxury of selecting a method; for others Kundalini arrives involuntarily. The goal of a method is to permanently awaken Kundalini. An involuntary,
or spontaneous, Kundalini activation can be temporary — although some effects may endure. No one forgets a Kundalini awakening.

The following is taken from my book, The Backward-Flowing Method: The Secret of Life and Death...


The Brain Continues to Evolve
"According to Gopi Krishna’s findings, 'There have been very few instances of individuals in whom the serpent fire burned ceaselessly from the day of its awakening until the last.' What does this have to do with 'kundalini meditation'? It establishes one criterion for qualifying a method of 'kundalini meditation': namely, that the method’s results must be permanent, not temporary. What’s more, we must realize that when we speak about method, we automatically exclude involuntary Kundalini experiences. Why? Because, by definition, if we talk about involuntary, we are talking about a Kundalini experience that can happen anytime, anywhere, in any set of circumstances, and cannot, therefore, be the result of any method. A method must be a systematic process with documented controls and predictable results. It must be a system anyone with the proper training can apply in order to produce the same results over and over, time after time. Moreover, to be considered, it must be a method that is safe, repeatable, and standardized. So, what is the ideal 'kundalini meditation'? I would say it’s a system that is:
  • Voluntary. It doesn’t happen on its own account. Its techniques are based on the documented experiences of others. The practitioner chooses to apply these techniques in order to achieve predictable results. 

  • Permanent. The results last a lifetime; the individual experiences daily Kundalini-Life Force activity that “burns ceaselessly from the day of its awakening until the last.” 

  • Safe. It does no harm to the individual. In fact, it serves as 'an upgrade mechanism,' restoring proper health and stability to the body and the entire being. 

  • Repeatable. The method can be used over and over, time after time, in a scientifically controlled manner to produce the same set of predictable results.
"Does this mean that involuntary or impermanent Kundalini experiences have no value or validity? No, it means that in order to advance this work, we must define what the work is. Can we not learn from involuntary or impermanent Kundalini experiences? Yes, of course we can. But just as a material scientist, who accidentally mixes several chemicals together in his lab, must repeat the process under scientifically acceptable conditions for it to be considered valid, the person who experiences an involuntary Kundalini awakening must be concerned with the repeatability of his process. If it isn’t repeatable, what lasting benefit can be attributed to the process? And if the effects do not last, isn’t that sort of like taking off in a flying contraption only to have it crash to the ground after 150 yards?"

If we believe that the biology behind Kundalini is linked to evolutionary advancement and it will ultimately — one way or another — be available to all persons, then we need to refine available methods and vet them. Let the experiments with Kundalini in the laboratory of individual bodies become an experiment on a mass scale across a vast number of willing and able bodies.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Triggers and Effects

I use the notions of triggers and effects to denote causes and results in describing Kundalini arousals, triggers being the cause and effects being the result.

How do you activate it? (Triggers)
In my 40 years of listening to Kundalini awakening stories, I have heard so many trigger variations it is nearly impossible to categorize them. Everything from meditation to drugs, physical exertion to sexual ecstasy to Shaktipat to minding one's own business. For me, my trigger was meditation.

But my activation method only applies to me and to those who have practiced the Golden Flower Meditation method. Once you practice a given method, and get to a point where the sublimation process becomes active, it is difficult to change course and begin all over again with a new method.


Dal Lake, houseboats, kashmir 1977
I stayed on a houseboat while meeting with Gopi Krishna - Dal Lake, Kashmir, 1977
This is especially true for those whose Kundalini is permanent. I could no more undo my permanently active Kundalini, go back to a time before it was active, and start over with a new method than I could reinsert myself into my mother’s womb and be born again.

So what does this tell us? Simply that there is no one size-fits-all trigger for arousing Kundalini and no guarantee that a given trigger will actually work in a specific case...so if you're looking for one, you may not find it in books, conversations, or retreats. It just may up and hit you when you least expect it...or not. However your experience is triggered accept it as the ultimate experiment in the laboratory of your own body.

Today, there's so much buzz and crosstalk about Kundalini, but so little sharing of Kundalini knowledge and experience. Everyone’s off in his or her corner, trying to protect his or her itzy bit of Kundalini turf, scared someone else will steal it or, at the least, somehow diminish its gainfulness. Trying to convince the world that one trigger is better than another is counterproductive. I could tell you that my method is the one true and only method, but I’ve found that promoting exclusivity leads to a compartmentalization of knowledge. Kundalini doesn’t need insider bickering among adepts; there’s enough hostility, doubt, and prejudice directed at it from outside sources. Better to spend time sharing information on triggers and testing them under laboratory conditions.


JJ Semple, Kashmir 1977, Dal Lake
With Farad, my guide, in front of Dal Lake - Kashmir, 1977
 As far as I know, there are no statistics on the success rate of any given trigger, so although there's a lot of information out there, it's muddled. How do you choose a method or a trigger? In my case, my method chose me. Someone gave me a copy of The Secret of the Golden Flower and I practiced the method in the book. One factor that helped me succeed was sticking with a single method once IT found me. Doers complete the journey; dabblers get nowhere. Recognize the difference.

What does It do for/to you? (Effects)
The foregoing applies to the activation method (the trigger); however, when we speak of the effects and aftermath of Kundalini common among practitioners, we find many effects are shared. However, each case is different. It would be great if that wasn’t the case, but it is. Until there is a trigger that produces the same effects time after time over a given population, and a critical mass of practitioners who share a comparable set of effects, we won’t achieve unanimous acceptance from researchers. So even though I’d like to consider my method as capable of producing uniform results, the sample group of practitioners is as yet too small.

The general question “What does kundalini do for you?” must be rephrased as “What did it do for me?” This I can answer. For me, the effects included, but were not limited to:
  • Triggering autonomic self-healing mechanisms capable of correcting defects due to neural degeneration;
  • Rejuvenating the brain and the body as a result of intense neuroplastic activity;
  • Retarding the aging process;
  • Reversing self-destructive and addictive behavior;
  • Heightening and enhancing consciousness through the awakening of various metanormal effects and powers;
  • Cleansing the ego by removing the effects of conditioning and programming: self-actualization;
  • Clearly demonstrating that the spirit persists after death;
  • Helping to end dependency on ineffective health-care models; and
  • Facilitating the transition into the next state of being.
And it didn't necessarily stop there. Not all of the effects come “online” as soon as activation takes place. Kundalini is still DOING me — forty years after I activated it! And it doesn’t operate wantonly! Kundalini is intelligent.

What’s more, these are not the only effects I will ever experience; new effects are happening all the time, without warning. Kundalini doesn’t stand still. And that’s part of the challenge: Don’t try to contend with the power of Kundalini; don’t try to control it because you won’t be able to. Once permanently activated, it’s best to submit to whatever Kundalini has in store for you.

For me, the effects have been benign. Whether this holds true in your case, I can't say. And whether you're able to withstand the effects depends on your ability to accept Kundalini and adapt yourself to its dictates. I've talked with many people who have shared some, if not all, of the effects included in my list above, and, in doing so, have thrived. Nevertheless, since effects vary from subject to subject, but are also shared in many instances, I believe it would be useful to classify effects by triggers and then rate each effect by impact from negative to positive. That way we might learn which triggers to avoid, if possible, and which ones produce positive effects.

What about ecstatic states of bliss? Yes, they are common, especially in the beginning. But don’t get caught up in them; they take you away from the real world. And as long as we inhabit bodies, the real world makes demands on us, and we must balance these demands with the thrall an awakening experience casts over us as we learn to put the layers of past conditioning into proper perspective.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Thinking About Death

As well as being the awakener of the Life Force, Kundalini is also called, in the Tantric texts, the "Fire Of Death." There are times when the Kundalini energy is so intense one feels gripped by it, snatched bodily out of oneself, stopped dead. If not death itself, this is a near approach to dying. The body becomes shell-like. Sharply focused light floods the chest. A prickling sensation covers the face, like needles being pushed up from under the skin. The prickling becomes so acute it's only a deep absorption that can stop one scratching uncontrollably. It's strange that at moments like these, the body is experienced, and even visually seen, with a greater clarity and reality than it has in ordinary day-to-day life.

The blueprint of the perfected body comes more into focus, and one cherishes it more deeply than ever. The texts say that there are seventy two thousand nadis in the human body. I'm sure that the facial prickling, which can be maddeningly acute, is the pushing outwards of some of these nadis, awakening and shaping the surface of the face, which is where each of us is most visibly human, as well as being the most weather beaten and marked by experience. As the "Fire Of Death" rises up the body, the physical blueprint becomes less and less one's own, and more and more the physical form of the Non-Self, the "face one had before one was born."
 
The Portals of Death and Decay
Decay

Of course, there's a danger that one is merely thinking about death, playing with the idea of death, or even worse, escaping into a callous fantasy when faced with the death of others — friends, loved-ones, and strangers. Never-the-less, even on a merely intellectual level, death is a constant, all-surrounding reality, which must be faced. In traditional times, people turned to ars moriendi, the art of dying, to prepare themselves for death and to give depth to their final days and hours.

The khyrystaia, or warrior caste in Vedic times, chose to die standing up, either in battle, or by keeping on their feet as they passed away. John Donne, the metaphysical poet, used to wrap himself in a burial shround to meditate. Shelley, who was a bit of a poser, drank wine from a skull. WB Yeats, in a fine line, celebrates "those who come glad-eyed and laughing to the tomb." The whole idea of the "quantum," in quantum mechanics, is that energy manifests itself in "parcels" or "packages," which, even at the speed of light, have a beginning and an end. The apparent solidity of the body is made up of an untold number of instantaneous beginnings and endings.

Kundalini doesn't think about it, Kundalini is it.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

My Early Visual and Affective Journey

“Wow! This description of the renovation and restoration process of kundalini is sure in line with my own experience.”
 
This was my reaction while reading sections of Kundalini Vidya: The Science of Spiritual Transformation several months after my forty day retreat.
 

At the time of my retreat, I had never heard of kundalini, nor did I know about the layers or sheaths making up the subtle body. Written by Joan Harrigan, this book uses an Eastern archetypal model that resonated with my own profound kundalini experience. This model was described in detail in my previous posting.

Beyond our physical bodies, but emanating from our physical systems, lies the energy sheath made up of energy channels intersecting with six major chakras. Next to it is the mental sheath of our conscious and unconscious minds that can be broken down into “chitta,” the unconscious storehouse of past impressions and imprints, “manas,” our sensory motor system that carries out automatically the many biological and psychological functions of our metabolism, and the “ahankara” or ego, defining and giving us that sense of I-ness or separate identity with all of its attachments and boundaries. Next to that lies the discernment sheath, reflective consciousness often referred to as our inner voice. With this blueprint in mind, I will try to describe how this model is connected with what I experienced.

In Christian Meditation (which I had been practicing for nearly three decades before encountering kundalini) we are told to breathe normally. So breathing becomes principally an unconscious response. You just let it be what it is. I would describe this as “manas” or an automatic response. If you wish to change it by holding your breath or breathing faster, you can, but normal would be to inhale, exhale with no special attention.

On the thirty-eight day of my retreat, the first noticeable and unexpected change was in my pattern of breathing. This changed in two ways. While I was meditating, it seemed that “manas,” or the automatic response system, temporarily shifted my breathing pattern to a deep inhaling and holding of breath for as long as possible. This inhaling and holding of breath created pressure which was then systematically directed towards certain areas of my body. First to the diaphragm, then to the left and right sides, to the upper chest, back, neck and head. I described this in my journal as an opening up of areas in my body previous devoid of air and energy flow.

The second thing I began to notice was the development of a new pattern for overall breathing. My old normal breathing pattern was comprised of a shallow inhale, exhale; an in and out routine. It began to change into diaphragmatic deep breathing, but of a circular nature, clockwise to be more specific.

In the past, I've seldom had, or paid much attention to, visions. In fact, I was quite suspicious of them, but during the kundalini process these mind pictures become a fairly common event. And these psychological pictures and affective impressions were of a great assistance in helping me understand what was happening during this unusual time.


During this change in my overall breathing pattern, the picture that frequently popped into my mind in respect to circular breathing was my breath following the curvature of a large wheel (positioned perpendicular to my body) that was circling slowly in a clockwise fashion. Upon exhaling, the breath followed the downward descent of the part of the wheel that was closest to my body. As the full exhale changed into the beginning of the inhale, the breath would follow the curve of the wheel through the bottom of its cycle to begin its upward climb until it reached the full inhale as it curved around the top to begin again its descent with the beginning of the exhale. Amazingly enough, it was the breath that was pulling the wheel around in its circular motion.
 
You may ask: What’s the significance of this? The significance is that "manas," the autonomic motor system, seemed to be changing my breathing pattern in a manner that was necessary to arouse the flow of kundalini energy up from the lower chakras to the brain as part of its transformation agenda. It seemed that circular breathing was continuously being called upon to facilitate this process.
 
In the following days, particularly during meditation time and at night, kundalini relentlessly took control of this agenda leaving me as an observer. The journey up the spine and into the brain became an ebb and flow over a period of weeks. This ebb and flow revealed some repeating patterns of mind pictures and affective experiences that I had no explanation for at the time, but were ultimately tied in with the archetypal model I discovered some months later in Kundalini Vidya.

Repeatedly, as kundalini made its journey, it was as if it was entering the mental sheath at the level of “chitta,” the unconscious storehouse of past impressions and imprints. The first repetition of images began with a scene where I was looking, as if through a window, at the bottom of the sea that was filled with murky, dirty, filthy and polluted water. The water had gross sea monsters and creatures swimming about like predators. Dark seaweed swung about, sometimes covering me. There was no fear associated with this mind picture as I was only an observer. Could this have been a psychological image of unresolved issues, cultural conditioning, repressed habits and drives, defense mechanisms, etc., accumulated over a lifetime, content that was never dealt with?

As kundalini continued its journey, it was as if it passed into the “ahankara” or the ego area of the mental sheath. Consistently here, I became aware of a side of myself I did not like. I became consciously aware of my deceitful and manipulative side, of boundaries that prevented me from living in accordance with a deeper truth. It was an awareness that many things I thought were true were not true at all. It was an awareness of attachments and constructs of my own making. These affective experiences caused, at times, a deep emotional grief that brought up sobs of remorse.

This experience would invariably move to mind pictures of things falling away; more specifically a truck going down a hill in reverse out of control, buildings, crosses, churches crumbling to the earth, pieces of the earth falling away into space.

As kundalini continue its journey, finally it was as if it entered the discernment sheath, “buddhi,” with its silence, its expansiveness, the clear sky without any clouds, a place with the absence of “self” — home.

With each ebb and flow, each cycle of kundalini through the sheaths of the subtle body, a renovation and restoration was taking place, noticeable changes in the way I saw the exterior world around me. There was a freshness, a newness. There was a connection with others, those close to me and strangers, that I never experienced before. Episodes that would have previously triggered an emotional response were now neutral. And many of my own constructs and boundaries, some of which were the values, beliefs and assumptions that I held as an important part of my life, were mysteriously absent. It was confusing, but at the same time liberating, and the ecstatic bliss associated with the whole transformation process provided the assurance I needed to move with its flow.

Monday, January 26, 2015

No Practical Advice Whatsoever

This exchange occurred on FB. It's not the first time I've heard this, and it probably won't be the last.
 ___________________________________________

Reader: I've purchased your book, I've read, but I didn’t understand the purpose of your book, there is no practical advise whatsoever [sic] ...

JJ: Like Gopi Krishna’s Kundalini: The Evolutionary Energy in Man, Deciphering the Golden Flower One Secret at a Time is a narrative memoir. These types of books rarely offer “practical advice;” they’re not supposed to. Why?


Narrative memoir by JJ Semple


In the case of kundalini, each experience is so different, both as to how the experience is triggered and how it affects the individual in whom it is triggered. How can one offer substantive practical advice without knowing the circumstances of a case? Would you want a lawyer to offer generalities in a divorce case? Or a hitting coach to say, "Get up there and swing away."?

That’s why most books on kundalini triggers and effects, that are not memoirs, offer information laced with “received wisdom.” In fact, offering specific advice can be dangerous and misleading for neophytes that are completely in the dark. It’s much safer to generalize. Yet, generalities don’t satisfy the reader who’s looking for more.

On the other hand, in order to offer “practical advice” in each case, a separate book would have to be custom-written for each individual. And that’s not about to happen. In your case, without knowing anything about you or your situation, even to the point of whether you’ve had a kundalini experience, how it was triggered or how it affected you, I’m not qualified to comment or advise, in a book or in person. It would be presumptuous. 

Getting Inspiration From a Book
So why do authors write memoirs, or narrative stories about heros/heroines? What purpose do they serve? In a word, their purpose is “Identification,” a universally accepted literary device. The reader, or viewer in the case of a book, play, or movie, identifies with the protagonist’s struggle. If it weren’t for the identification factor, many works of art would not exist. Works like, “The Graduate,” “Portrait of a Lady,” “Rocky,” “Hamlet,” “A Moveable Feast,” “Anna Karenina.” The creator is saying, “This is the way it happened to me, or to him or her. Do you see something in this story that resonates for you?” Even the Christian Bible is based on identification: for millions, Jesus is the ultimate object of identification.

One of the Most Identified Events in History


Memoirs stimulate readers to feel good about themselves: either by looking down on the protagonist (there but for the grace of God go I) or looking up to him/her (when I grow up, I’m going to pattern my life on hers). Some people cannot relate to characters in a book, no matter how noble or how degraded; their brains are not wired that way. They objectify situations. Memoirs put you in the moment; how-to books place you at 20,000 feet. If you aren't moved by great stories and great characters — if you don't relate to their struggle — you'd better stick to how-to books.

Many readers of Deciphering the Golden Flower One Secret at a Time, who enjoyed the narrative (see Amazon reviews), tell me they were also able to “read between the lines” and extract useful information that they then applied to their own search for self-knowledge, namely:

  • Meditation is the best way to permanently activate kundalini
  • Kundalini is a biological phenomenon, not a religious one
  • Kundalini repurposes sexual energy, into "psychic fuel"
  • The kundalini activation experience takes place in a moment, learning to live with the effects takes years
  • Kundalini has autonomic self-healing properties
  • Kundalini rejuvenates the body, retards the aging process
  • Kundalini curbs addictive tendencies
  • Kundalini removes self-destructive tendencies
  • Kundalini is not for everyone
As for specific practical advice, judging from its positive reviews, readers tell me that my newest book, The Biology of Consciousness: Case Studies in Kundalini offers an objective, topical survey of the issues surrounding kundalini. Whether this book would be more to your liking remains for you to decide.

Jean-Luc Godard's muse
Anna Karina

In the end, most seekers discover that the road to self-knowledge is quite lonely. No matter how many books read, ashrams visited, retreats attended, questions asked and answered, the bulk of the work — like that of a scientist — is accomplished under laborious conditions by the solitary seeker him or herself.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Archetypal Model

For those seeking the path of liberation, truth seems to possess a natural desire and determination to awaken in those who are sincere in its pursuit. What must be surrendered in the process of liberation are any falsehoods that fall within its path, even those falsehoods that may have been previously defined as cherished beliefs, values and assumptions. Kundalini can be an ally to assist those in their search along the path of liberation, but look out. Once released, once the genie is out of the bottle, there’s no way you can return it to its previous captivity. And everything in its path that is false, even those areas you may wish to retain, will get burnt up in its fire right before your eyes.


Archetypes

I was fortunate in that I always viewed my kundalini encounter as a process of spiritual growth, of expurgation. Therefore, I surrendered to its movements, welcomed and embraced them without resistance even though I had no knowledge of what was happening or where it was leading me. I found it liberating as it released me from the emotional baggage I had been carrying over a lifetime. The Divine of my previous experience was suddenly boundless and expansive, and the sacredness and bliss of the experience allowed me to see the world radically different. But as kundalini burnt away the negative emotional baggage of past experiences, many other things changed as well. Many of the ways I had defined myself, that gave me that sense of who I was in relation to the exterior world were revamped. My intellectual understanding of them did not change, but much of the affective memory in relation to them was gone.

The Christian paradigm which had contributed greatly to my previous self-definition had little to offer by way of explanation as to what was happening. In the months following, my research led me to a new paradigm, a new archetypal model that facilitated the integration of my kundalini experience.

                                                                       
Chakras illustrated
The Chakras

In Eastern philosophies, an archetypal model exists for what is referred to as the subtle body. The subtle body is everything that is not represented by our solid physical bodies. In Eastern medicine, the structure and the dynamics of the subtle body are studied in the same manner as the physical anatomy in order to understand its functioning, purpose and methods of treatment. Western medicine does not recognize many aspects of the subtle body because it is not visible; however, it is slowly being recognized in our western approach to medicine through procedures such as acupuncture.

The Eastern tradition teaches that there are three diaphanous veils or sheaths that make up the subtle body: the energy sheath, the mental sheath, and the discernment sheath. A brief description of each is as follows:

The energy sheath is a vital process that animates the human system that allows it to sense and function. It is partially made up of nadis or energy channels that intersect with six major chakras or energy centres. The six principal chakras are associated with the physical body’s nerve plexuses and gland systems that manifest from their energy. Chakras, also called spinning wheels, function properly when there is a balanced flow of energy through the nadis which cause a cyclical sensation in the chakra area. The chakras and locations are as follows:
  • Muladhara or Root Chakra at base of spine and perineum area,
  • Svadhisthana or Sacral Chakra in genital area,
  • Manipura or Solar plexus Chakra in the navel area,
  • Anahata or Heart Chakra in heart area between the breasts,
  • Vishuddha or Throat Chakra in throat area and back of neck,
  • Ajna or Third eye Chakra between the brows.
  • The Sahasrara padma or crown located at the top of the head is another critical point of the energy sheath.
                                                               
The subtle body illustrated
The Subtle Body

The mental sheath consists of the conscious and unconscious mind and is broken down into three aspects or functions:

The first is called “Chitta,” or the unconscious storehouse of past impressions or imprints. This function of the mind might be described as a vast reservoir of memories, parental injunctions, unresolved issues, cultural conditioning, contradictions, tendencies, repressed habits and drives and impressions from past life experiences.

The second is called “Manas,” or the sensory motor mind. This function is objective, reflexive, the carrier out of orders. It can be trained, but also responds to habits, instinct or impulse. Data from the senses is registered here, and actions coordinated. Acting automatically, doubts arise here as well as perceptions by selective inattention.

The third is called “Ahankara,” or the ego. This function is one of self-definition and self-concepts. The boundaries of the personality, our attachments, aversions, and habits are defined here creating its sense of "I-ness." The ego denies what it cannot identify, and owns what it does identify.

The discernment sheath called “Buddhi” is reflective consciousness. This is the higher mind carrying out discriminative functioning. It is often referred to as the “inner voice” where reason, will, values, ethics come into play. It is the place where we make decisions and choose a course of action based on one’s true nature and purpose. It is the place of contemplation in relation to philosophical concepts, human qualities, culture or art. It is the gatekeeper of the unconscious from which there is both an inflow and outflow.
(Adapted from "Kundalini Vidya: The Science of Spiritual Transformation" by Joan Harrigan)

At the time of my forty day retreat, I was not familiar with this Eastern Philosophy. This was something I explored after returning home. The retreat experience that I engaged in brought forth many unexpected and certainly unintentional results that would take many months for me to resolve and many years to understand. In order to share the experience of this retreat, I will use the above model as a backdrop.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Tao and Kundalini

I was playing Ma Jong in Beijing a few nights ago when a thought struck me. One of the other players told me that the Chinese people believe very strongly in luck. For example, winning at Ma Jong around New Year’s is a good indication of a lucky year to come. The Chinese culture plays a lot with the idea of luck.

Feng Shui, for example — the practice of arranging your home, office, and other parts of your life — is said to bring good fortune. I am reminded of baseball players and their superstitions. When a player refuses to shave during a hitting streak, or carries a rabbit foot in his pocket, he is trying to influence his luck. Some of the more common baseball superstitions include purposely stepping on or avoiding the foul line when taking the field, not talking about a no-hitter or perfect game while it is in progress, eating only chicken before a game, and drawing in the dirt in the batter's box or tapping the bat on the plate before hitting.

It dawned on me that the ultimate way to get the best possible luck according to ancient Chinese philosophy is to “Follow The Tao.” This is best articulated in Lao Tze’ s prescription for living a good life, his seminal treatise, the Tao Te Ching (Treatise on the Value of the Way), written about 600 BC. To a psychic, following the Tao is the ultimate use of psychic power. Following The Tao is a synthesis of helpful energy, the blending of our individual needs with the collective living energy of the world.

But if following The Tao is the best way to help ourselves, then the obvious question is: How? You first have to find it to follow it. So the first goal is to find The Tao. This is the great task of mysticism and morality, the occupation of monks and would-be wizards alike, to develop sufficient personal awareness to recognize The Tao, and then to follow it. In the Tao Te Ching, Lao-Tse homes in on some chief values that serve as a prescription for finding The Tao, and that also help us live a good life in harmony with The Tao.

In Indian thought, the awakened kundalini serves to increase our awareness of energy both within us and in the world around us. The tremendous increase in both the quality and quantity of prana flowing up the spine and into the brain serves as an energetic transmutor, enabling growth of the mind and spirit, heart, and body, such that the awareness of The Tao becomes inevitable and inseparable from daily experience. As such, the Path to awakening kundalini and the path to finding Tao are synonymous.

In the New Testament, Jesus says “…I tell all of you with certainty, unless you change and become like little children, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3, International Standard Bible). He also said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you” (Luke 17:21). These two passages show that Jesus was also talking about the path to kundalini awakening.

Throwing off of pride, acceptance of humility, and becoming like a child precedes the Great Awakening that is possible. Rumi writes about it in his poetry. St. John of the Cross wrote about it in The Dark Night of The Soul. All these paths are really different versions of the same path. If one could assemble all these spirits in one room, there would be very little difference between them.

Gopi Krishna’s Book, The Way To Self-Knowledge, is perhaps the best book written on this subject in modern time. In a book length channeled poem, Gopi Krishna writes about the path to awakening as the way to self-knowledge, describes the ways to open up the spiritual channel through meditation, prayer, and service, and relates these activities to the modern world we live in. Gopi Krishna also describes all the spiritual paths as one and the same, with the same ultimate destination, the increased awareness that comes from the activation of the kundalini.

When one awakens kundalini, one finds The Tao. When one experiences Being One With The Cosmos, one feels unified with The Tao. This is because The Tao is beyond duality. This path never forks.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Presence

As I search for your love, you always come to me,
You are so beautiful, you make my heart run free.

As I look for your love, shining on your face,
You are so beautiful, you fill me full of Grace.

You are my love, You are my hope, You are my liberty.
Send me your love, send me your hope, you make my heart run free.

All the days of my life, I will follow You,
You are so beautiful, You make my dreams come true.



I wrote this song while meditating on a park bench, overlooking a beautiful lake near my home. It was the spring of 2006, only a few months after a forty-day meditation retreat my wife and I attended in a Retreat Center on the edge of the Arizona desert.

It started out very similar to the many others we had attended over the years, but this one turned out differently. On the thirty-eighth day of this retreat, after many days of deep, penetrating meditation, I encountered a phenomenon that forever changed the way I see and experience the world around me.

How does one begin sharing the story of a life-transforming experience, one that words cannot capture?

After many years of writing sermons for the Christian Church to which I belong, I defer to the simple rule that helped me with this work, namely, Begin with a single thought and stick to it. So I begin with a single thought, the notion of Presence.

As a child growing up on a farm in Eastern Canada, Presence was a part of my life. The only time Presence is not there is when I let myself become distracted by the demands of life around me. What is this Presence? I'll use three milestones in my life to describe it.

The first occurred when I was eight or nine years old. I recall it as vividly today as when it happened. Early one spring morning after a good night’s sleep, I got out of bed. No one was around. My parents were doing their chores and my other brothers and sisters were either off doing chores or still sleeping. I stepped out the front door onto the doorstep of our farm house. My mind was still quiet from my sleep. At that instant, I experienced a moment of clarity, of awareness, that remains stamped in my memory today. The spring air was very still and contained a refreshing warmth and fragrance. I could hear the running water in the nearby stream, swelled by spring rains. The swallows were flying around the barns; I could hear the flapping of their wings. The moment lasted several seconds, but seemed much longer. I was suspended in a harmony with everything around me — a peace, an inner contentment and joy. For those few seconds, it was as if time had stopped. A moment of joy and peacefulness, not attached to one particular thing. Beyond the tranquility of all I witnessed, there was something more that cannot be named; something ineffable, deep, inner, and holy. A graced moment that still remains vivid in my mind today.

The second milestone happened in my mid-twenties, during the early years of pursuing career and family life, a time of struggle. For some time, I felt a deep dissatisfaction with my life. Despite that fact that I was succeeding in many of my goals (in my career, my family, in acquiring the things I wanted), something was missing. I felt empty when it came to love and relationships. As a result, I experienced being isolated and alienated from others. Nothing I did dispelled these feelings. In my search for an answer, I decided to get more involved in church. I taught Sunday School, joined a Mens Group, and became part of a prayer group. It was there, at the prayer group, on a cold November evening, during a time of prayer, in a moment of quiet desperation and in tears, I turned to Christ and asked for help. It was as if the walls of my alienation and fear washed away, and I experienced, in a new way, God’s Presence and love for me, so strong that the structures of my well-planned life were shaken.

It was as if Christ was calling me to ministry as a way of life, imploring me to step away from a way of life where everything depended on my efforts and the false illusion of security it provided, asking me to step into the waters of uncertainty. The prayer discipline for this journey into faith became meditation.


The third and most unusual encounter happened in my late fifties during the forty day retreat in Arizona. On the thirty-eighth day of this retreat, a deep change began with a spontaneous change in breathing patterns (pranayama) that seemed to open up areas in my body, previously devoid of air and energy flow. This was followed by a pulsating in the root and sacral Chakras and the flow of an ecstatic energy from that location, up the spine to begin a process of renovating and restructuring my brain that would dismantle a lifetime of constructs, boundaries, and conditioning. What remained with the greatest clarity was Presence, much more universal, much more expansive, observing, but not judging, free from any constructs and boundaries, remaining, at all times, in the present moment.  

What started at that moment was the beginning, the discovery of a new language, a new archetypal model that could help with the understanding and integration of this new way of seeing and of being. The Christian paradigm of which I was most familiar had little to offer by way of explanation or experience.


In my next post, I'll explore my discovery of an archetypal model that helped me with this integration.

Monday, January 12, 2015

"I Love the Prophet Muhammad More Than I Love my Own Children"

The title of this post is a direct quote from an ordinary Muslim man living in the UK. He was being interviewed the day after after the Paris massacre. When I heard this, my first reaction was shock which was replaced with a kind of awe of the power of devotion.

I don't have children so will be the first to admit that while I have nieces, nephews, and grand-nieces whom I love very much; this love is of a different nature and quality to biological love. I can't imagine a greater love than that of one's own child. I have written posts about the power of devotion because of how it is a turning away from the ego.


For many years, I pursued a rational scientific explanation for the spiritual experiences I've had, which I write about in my book. Now, however, I have put aside the search for an explanation and have embraced the path of devotion to a Guru I won't name. There are a few reasons why I won't name Him. Firstly, the object of my devotion is personal. Secondly, experience shows that the moment the name of a Guru is written, there's always someone ready to come out and discredit it. I love my Guru far too much to take that risk. The last reason for my reluctance is because the organization set up to carry on the teaching is fiercely protective and regularly trawls the internet picking up posts with keywords which would indicate this Guru's style of teaching, as it is distinct and unique. 

On the day of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists were killed, Facebook was awash with copies of past cartoon covers posted by people supporting the principle of free speech. Flipping through the covers, I felt a faint twinge of regret that I hadn't paid more attention to learning French at school. I'm sure that the translations weren't an accurate interpretation of what was meant to be conveyed.

One of the cartoon covers held my attention longer than the others, but, before I write what I am going to, I want to make it absolutely crystal clear that I don't condone barbaric acts of killing. There is no justification ever for one human being to take the life of another, none whatsoever.

However, in my opinion, there's a difference between a cartoon that is witty and thought provoking and one that can only be seen as demeaning, degrading, and derogatory. The cartoon of Muhammad which held my attention was definitely in the latter category. Interestingly, I went back onto Facebook the next day to see if I could find this cover and it seemed to have been removed.

When I first saw this cover, I imagined that it was my Guru being portrayed that way and without any intention on my part I experienced feelings of revulsion and anger. However, my years of practicing Buddhism and cultivating a witness consciousness meant I could simply observe these feelings without the compulsion to act on them. I'm in favor of the right of free speech, but with rights come responsibilities, and it seems the emphasis in this situation is on rights with very little attention paid to responsibility.

Returning to the title of this post, I find myself wondering what makes a man love a non-material entity more than the actual material presence of his own children. The Prophet Muhammad is no longer alive, so it must be some kind of spiritual transmission that adepts promise their devotees. We recognize similar notions, resurrection and reincarnation, for instance, in other religions. Notions that defy scientific scrutiny, yet are powerful and alluring enough to make one lose all sense of critical thinking so that he is willing to give his life for a principle or a promised reward. The fascination of martyrdom, or eternal life for believers in other religions, outweighs a comfortable and happy life in this world. For those that buy into this argument, the prospect of death holds no fear.

Death cartoon

Lack of fear of death presents a challenge for us in the West. Death is not in conflict with life; in fact, it is an inevitable part of existence, an extension of life, if you will. But we don't see it like this. In the West, there's a morbid fear of death, which increases when security services make statements like, "We can't protect everyone from terrorist attacks." Perhaps, if there was more openness and dialogue around the true nature of death, then such statements wouldn't strike fear into so many hearts. Overcoming our fear of death so that we can remain calm and steady in the face of any event is something that needs to be addressed.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Parzival

Traces of Kundalini awakening turn up in the Parzival of Wolfram von Eschenbach, written around 1200, a chivalrous account of the Grail legend. Parzival is wonderfully earthy for a mystic narrative, and often extremely funny. Sexual love lies shoulder-to-shoulder with transcendental union, in a way that suggests an understanding of sublimation and the backward-flowing method. When Parzival and his bride Condwiramurs ("the lady of this land was like a rose still moist, sweet dew revealing in the bud its pristine red and white") consummate their nuptials, groom and bride are so innocently enraptured with one another they lie together for two days without penetration or orgasm:
"For two days they remained thus with one another, happy in their liking, till the third night. He often thought of embracing, as his mother had advised him, and Gurnemanz too had explained to him that man and woman are all one. Then... they entwined their arms and legs, and if you will allow me to say so found what is sweet when near."
Lovers embrasing

The "Grail" that Parzival goes in quest of is not the Christian chalice of the Last Supper. It's described as being a stone. It magically produces food and wine (in an age when starvation was rife) and gives news flashes of the Divine Will. It's the alchemical Philosophers Stone more than it's the Eucharist cup.

There's a poignantly comic moment — again suggestive of states that arise when Kundalini awakens — when Parzival, still unperfected, his quest still unfulfilled, approaches King Arthur's encampment through deep, new-fallen snow. A falcon swoops down on a goose and wounds it. Three drops of blood are splattered on the white snow. Parzival comes to an abrupt halt, and stares down at the blood on the snow:

"It is God's will to give me untold happiness... Condwiramurs, here lies your bright image!"
The three drops on the snow are Condwiramurs. The snow is her skin and the blood is her cheeks and lips. The All is present in the singularity:
"Mighty Love held him enthralled, so sharply did longing for his wife assail him."
Unfortunately, as he sits there on his horse in an out-of-body state, his lance is raised, "ready to joust" (seven hundred years before Freud!) Once again, as on his marriage night, there's a state of sexual arousal without physical release.

In those days, a raised lance was a challenge to fight. Parzival's unconsciously lifted spear demands a warlike response from the knights in the camp (male competitors.) A young hothead charges out, and is just about to knock Parzival down, when Parzival's horse shies, Parzival can no longer see the drops of blood on the snow, comes out of his trance/samadhi and decks the aggressor. This happens a second time. Parzival's horse turns back to the drops of blood once more, Parzival goes back into his out-of-body state, lance raised, and Sir Kaie rushes out to beat up the defenceless man, and is again bested, when Parzival's horse shies.

The third time, it's Sir Gawain, the embodiment of good nature and intelligence, who rides forth to sort the newcomer out. Sir Gawain notices that Parzival is in a trance because he's staring at the blood on the snow, and, instead of attacking Parzival, covers the blood with his cloak. Parzival returns to his body, they greet one another, and Parzival is welcomed into the camp.

It's a world away from the modern forms that Kundalini awakenings take, yet at the heart of it there's a shared awareness. The pingala nadi is represented as being of a red colour, the ida nadi of a white colour, the blood and the snow of the "bright image." Sitting on his horse, dead to the world, in "Might Love's thrall," Parzival has passed, body and mind, into the susumna nadi, the spinal channel, the Middle Way.