Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Spiritual Journey Is an Active Not a Passive Process

There is some thinking in spiritual circles that the spiritual process is a passive process whereby you sit patiently and wait for the gift of Grace which heralds awakening and then enlightenment. Without Grace there is no spiritual journey. Moreover, whatever journey there is, is largely conceptual or mind-based. The gift of Grace marks the shift from concept to experience. But that gift of Grace is earned by an active conscious process. You cannot escape the intellectual rigor and reasoning required for the spiritual journey.

That active process begins by being authentic when reading spiritual books or listening to those claiming to have achieved certain stages of realization. Asking yourself, "What feels right about what I am reading/listening to?" What resonates as Truth and what doesn't. This is a process, which, in my case, began in early childhood when I began to identify those parts of the Catholic faith that felt right and those that didn't. Whether or not my reasoning was correct is not the point; the point is to have the courage to ask the questions and begin the vital process of discernment.

This process of discernment continued when I started studying Buddhism. I questioned everything, and most importantly I related everything back to my own experience, not to what I thought about or what I had read or heard — but to what resonated with my own experience. This was a particularly active process in meditation: observing the chaotic nature of my mind and thoughts, recognizing directly their impermanence and the root of my suffering.

However, seeing and experiencing this mind turbulence does not end the process; it continues as Sadhana or one's regular practice, and it is not easy. The process demands the engagement of the consciousness; there is no way around this. It involves facing up to and taking responsibility for every thought, word, action without projection onto anyone or anything else. All of this work is necessary before the gift of Grace is bestowed.

Then, having done all of this work, there is the active process of "letting go" so that everything can be refined, as if by internal incubator so that something new can emerge. This is a challenging part of the process because in my case when I let go in the sense of not reading/writing/listening to anything spiritual, I didn't understand what was driving this urge to "let go." Was it my ego getting too close to its own disintegration or was it a genuine intuition, which I had to listen to if I wanted to progress further? Writing this I can still remember the confusion and emptiness I felt at this time. Up to that point, I had spent so much of my life reading/writing/listening to all things spiritual that I couldn't see how life could be enjoyable without it. Was I self-sabotaging? All of these thoughts ran rampant through my mind.

There are crunch points at various milestones on the spiritual journey and each of these crunch points demands something in order to progress to the next stage. The intuitive impulse to end my search was one of these points. Choosing to surrender to the Kundalini energy when I experienced it was another. I wrote in detail about this experience in my book, Female Kundalini. These times demand that the individual make an active conscious choice at that point. 

On this path, there is nothing given that is not well and truly earned. So, those non-dualists who say, "There is nothing to do, you are already THAT. There's no need for practice, discipline, or self-observation."

I say, "This is simply not true. Believing it so is to live inside a spiritual bubble, which will sooner or later burst."


  1. Great article. My reading lately has principally moved to Buddhist thought. They would certainly agree with your conclusions above (cultivating practice).

    I was able to resonate very clearly with your article on the questioning and examination of all interior phenomena to identify what is "real" from one's experience and what is unreal. I am never sure if this is much appreciated in my Christian venue; but if it doesn't ring true, I have difficulty accepting it.

    There is an area, however, in my meditation and later Kundalini journey where the phrase "no where to go, nothing to do" did tie in with my experience. As one moves deeply into meditation, there is this encounter with the wall of the ego which cannot be transcended through the conventional means of striving, clinging or grasping etc. By stillness and silence. it was only by cessation or letting go of body, sensations, thoughts, perceptions, and even other movements of consciousness, that a new level emerges (which can't be described but is sometimes referred to as being at one with all things). Even the perceived movements of kundalini and breathing seem to cease. As part of this emergence, at one point there exists this sense of "no where to go, nothing to do" as it implied to this "waiting" in silence and stillness, because you know that any initiative you personally take will crumble the whole process. In a way, it is still something that is very active.

    Enjoyed your article and the journey we share.

  2. Very true and perceptive. It's difficult to let go of ego beacuse one fears that the outside world, which seems so vast and 'other' will crush one. I feel that Kundalini is active in the world outside me, as well as inside my body and brain, in a way that I don't at all understand. However, I'm sure that when I surrender to Kundalini, Kundalini guides my petty path through the outer world, so that even difficulties and mistakes are transformed.

    1. I am trying to figure out if that new state that emerges after the letting go of sensations, thoughts, perceptions etc. is what the Buddhist call samadhi. Any Buddhist writings on this are all so complex with their - if this is the case, it is not, but if this is the case, it may be. By the time I get through the explanation, I can only conclude that it sounds like it, but maybe not. Maybe its one of those areas that you fully understand only after you arrive there.

      Paul, I agree there is the perception of something active beyond self or as you have said in the world outside me (self), but I have never looked upon it as Kundalini, even though I've heard others describe it as such. I guess this is what I've referred to as "Presence" in my previous postings. And there is sense of a merging with that "Presence". As one steeped in Christianity, perhaps I put my own spin on this ( Divine other) with the Kundalini being more of a built-in biological process that renovates and restores so as to prepare one to experience this union more deeply. Regardless as to whether it is a surrender to "Presence" or "Kundalini", the results seem to be similar.

    2. What I know of is nirvikalpa - samadhi. Once the kundalini is no longer asleep but activated, an energy emerges into one's body/mind from the base of the spine. This active kundalini shows as an intense feeling in the perineum, the feeling of prana moving up the spine and into the brain, and the perceptible energy of consciousness moving around the body with its own plan, transforming the individual. This is accompanied by a tremendous sense of mind expansion and intellectual intoxication. This lasts for several years but eventually calms down as the individual adapts and evolves. The ego in this case is like a cork on an ocean. The best thing for the ego to do get out of the way.

    3. Thanks for this Neil. Your description of mind expansion and intellectual intoxication connect well with the experience. I guess what I hear you saying is that this represents the beginning of samadhi, and like most things in life, it grows and evolves from there. I'm currently reading a book by Master Nan Huai-Chin who approaches the subject a little differently. He seems to stress that many today place to much emphasis on the ch'i channels and how their opening is affecting us. By cultivating practice properly, we are emptying out what he calls the five skandhas which are form, sensation, conception,motivational synthesis, and consciousness. Although the opening of the ch'i channels are a normal result of cultivating practice, they too must be emptied out as they form a component of the five skandhas. In many cases, he is speaking beyond my depth, however, I sense a truth in what he is trying to convey. Question! Would samadhi be an experience that takes us beyond our obsession with ch'i channels and the effect they are having on us? By focusing to much on kundalini, are were creating an obstacle to moving to a true state of wholeness?

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  4. If the kundalini is truly active permanently, the prana that is let loose on the nervous system has its own inherent force and momentum. At this point, all we can do is get our ego and self-directedness out of the way. The experience of nirvikalpa-samadhi shows one all the earthly chains that hold us back. Then there is a process of successive liberation to free us from those chains. This lays out a course in one's life.

    I am not a Buddhist so I cannot speak to the Buddhist meditation practices. But in order to achieve samadhi, every attachment must be released in order to find unity with the divine. When we speak of an activated kundalini, this is all happening fast track anyway. What is different about nirvikalpa-samadhi is that the achievement of unity caused by an immediate and full kundalini arousal is caused by an act of will. But once that act has been achieved, and it is known to be quite dangerous to achieve it, the energy loosed is active within one's system. It has a mind of its own. It's why Krishna wrote that he thought he was on the edge of sanity because he was experiencing things that challenged his very sanity.

    Because my experience was nearly identical to his, I relate very closely with his explanations and descriptions. I am not a scholar in this area so I tend to see these things somewhat subjectively. In my case I knew nothing about kundalini when mine became active. I can say that I truly felt initially like one whose mind is flowing along an underground stream, pushed by the stream every which way. This lasts for years. Even today, after all this time, I still feel that all I have really learned is how to adapt to the forces inside me.

  5. The more I "live" it — forty three years now — the less I want to study it. Just let it do its work! Nevertheless, Neil's description accurately describes my activation, both in terms of my utter surprise on the force that came over (overcame) me and the learning to live with it. The Kundalini arousal and its aftermath lasts but a relatively brief moment; adapting to it takes the remainder of a lifetime. It truly had a "mind of its own" that included a complete plan for my rebirth/regeneration.