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Advanced Yoga Practices
Main Lessons
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Note: For the Original Internet Lessons with additions, see the AYP Easy Lessons Books. For the Expanded and Interactive Internet Lessons, AYP Online Books, Audiobooks and more, see AYP Plus.

Lesson 331 - Non-Duality and Ecstatic Kundalini  (Audio)

AYP Plus Additions:
331.1 - The Witness, Self-Inquiry and Kundalini
  (Audio)

From: Yogani
Date: May 17, 2009

New Visitors: It is recommended you read from the beginning of the archive, as previous lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, "Why This Discussion?"


Q: What do I do with overwhelming bliss associated with a kundalini awakening? I have been at a loss as to how to proceed with practices related to managing kundalini. My route into this hasbeen jnana yoga, and this is still my core practice, focused for many years on the teaching of Nisargadatta Maharaj. I have not really sought this kundalini practice. I have just found that things have happened on the kundalini level, as a result of jnana yoga and meditation, which have followed the patterns described by the kundalini yogis, and which demanded attention.

Twenty years or more ago, my kundalini awakened in two powerful events, one of which I thought my body and mind could not survive. In the first, I was awoken to a massive force in the spinal line which pinned me to the bed, up and down up and down, like a thousand orgasms, but with no possibility of orgasm (it wasn't centered on the sex organs, though one pole was muladhara and the other ajna, with every point in between on massive overload). I couldn't move or breathe and thought I would die. It was like being raped by some massive force of bliss.

In the second experience, I was awoken to a very real vision (definitely not a dream) of Da Love Ananda, with whom I was not a formal devotee but had read some of his books, sitting on my shoulders and then later laughing and looking into my eyes, at which point massive laser lights went from his eyes into mine, and I was overcome with massive bliss and united with him. I awoke with a powerfully blissful body and mind which lasted for some time.

It should be noted that I had done no systematic kundalini yoga, but had meditated on and off for some years, and spent my life immersed in stories of saints and in the practice of prayer and the Mass as a Roman Catholic. For many years, the Mass was such a powerful experience that I could hardly maintain consciousness, and this is sometimes still the case.

All was not always bliss, once kundalini had awakened like this. I spent a couple of years on the verge of tears and with a heart that felt like a stone. It was so bad that I thought every day, even every minute, that I wouldn't be able to continue with my job. I took comfort from a story told by Laurence Olivier, the actor, that he had spent a couple of years in a similar state, feeling that he could only guarantee taking the next step or uttering the next word on stage following which he would collapse and have to give up. It is a massive strain, but perhaps it teaches one to live in the present moment, one step at a time.

More recently, the 'problem' that I am struggling with is what to do with overwhelming bliss. How do I carry on in social situations or in a responsible job when I am constantly, particularly when in company, experiencing something like the original kundalini awakening, though not so massive. It is like the Olivier experience again, in that I can just about function the next step or second at a time, but anything more feels like it will be total collapse into ecstasy. Muladhara is active and blissed; ajna is active and blissed; I feel like I will orgasm if I just relax; if I don't relax I feel like I will orgasm. I remind myself of the original awakening where the bliss was so huge it seemed to bypass physical orgasm.

I am reminded that Ramakrishna once gave a devotee the bliss he asked for (though I have not asked for bliss, I asked for union with the divine, being lost in God), and the devotee couldn't cope and begged him to take it away, which he did.

I have responded to the 'problem' with more self-inquiry, which focuses feeling and attention at and 'beyond' ajna chakra for me, but this makes the problem worse.

It should be noted that as a jnana yogi, seeking advaita (non-duality) via Siva, I have tried to be more in the ascetic mould all my life (probably as a result of a repressive Roman Catholic upbringing, I recognize, and so have avoided having a fully active sex life much of the time). At the moment, I have no choice but to relieve the sexual pressure from time to time, and this gives me a day or so of groundedness before the ecstasy escalator starts again.

Any comments about how to find more of an equilibrium would be gratefully received. Overwhelming bliss is a real nuisance!

A: Thanks much for your kind sharing. Your case demonstrates that we cannot separate dual experiences from our non-duality, no matter how insistent we may be about the non-reality of the former. Somehow a marrying will occur. In AYP, we describe the end product of that joining as "stillness in action," a phrase that indicates the paradox of it all. Yet, we are that, and all efforts to deny one for the other will be futile. They are One! 

With regard to your kundalini experiences and excessive symptoms, it is a matter of sorting out causes and effects, and taking remedial actions. Since all aspects of yoga are connected, it is possible for intense self-inquiry to stimulate kundalini. If that is the case for you, then self-pacing of self-inquiry would be in order to help stabilize your path, just as it would be for any other practice. Everything in Lesson 69 will apply. It is the same journey, with a slightly different slant due to your particular background. The underlying principles are the same.

You don't have to start over with your practice routine established for so many years. But some adjustments can help. You might consider getting a little more worldly to balance things out. Also consider adding in a little daily spinal breathing, and see if that helps stabilize the energies (it often does). Make sure to get plenty of grounding activity in general. Also, having more abiding inner silence certainly helps a practitioner to remain steady in the event of "fireworks." This is why we begin first with deep meditation in AYP. You may have the cultivation of inner silence covered already in your long background. But perhaps not as much as you would like, since all this has been a bit unnerving at times.

Keep in mind that the role of kundalini is the emergence of the energetic connection between inner silence and the outer world. Kundalini symptoms are the "friction" of that emerging energy flow passing through remaining obstructions in the neurobiology. Even the erotic forms of ecstasy are that. As the obstructions dissolve, so will the friction, and the symptoms will evolve to a higher expression. The result will be an ongoing outpouring of divine love, which translates into loving service in the world. This is not inconsistent with non-duality. Rather it is the fulfillment of it -- stillness (Oneness) in action. This may fly in the face of orthodox "neti-neti" style self-inquiry, but what is occurring in you is a better measure of truth. It always is. The fulfillment of this process will not be the elimination of the natural evolution that is occurring, but the reduction of our identification with it, and the allowing of it. It is the rise of the witness and the relaxation of the clutching mind in the process of human spiritual transformation.

So consider carrying forward on your wonderful long-time path with a few additional perspectives self-pacing, grounding, whatever additional methods that can help stabilize the situation (perhaps some spinal breathing), and an eye toward expanded avenues of service (karma yoga inner and/or outer) which is the ultimate fruition of non-duality and kundalini. It is stillness in you wanting to move outward on the wings of ecstatic radiance. It is a rebirthing, and all for the good.

Looking at this more from the point of view of advaita-vedanta will also be helpful. Nisargadatta Maharaj is certainly "top of the heap" for that, so you are blessed to have that background. At the same time, it is good to understand the relationship between non-duality and kundalini. Your experience demonstrates the inseparability of these aspects of human spiritual transformation. 

The word kundalini and the phenomena it describes have received much fanfare and notoriety in many circles, while at the same time being much pooh-poohed in the more orthodox advaita-vedanta traditions. 

If we are developing a serious approach to self-inquiry, while recognizing the essential roles of sincere devotion to the task, deep meditation and samyama, still, we may be tempted to try and ignore the thing called kundalini, because it is so associated with the body. Of all the aspects of yoga, kundalini is the part that seems to be most deeply rooted in the duality of existence, and therefore of least interest to someone who is seeking to realize the highest truth.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Kundalini is about the energetic development of our subtle neurobiology, giving rise to the direct perception of radiant Oneness in our environment. While even this perception is ultimately transcended, it is a necessary stepping stone that all who are on the path will take. If the process of kundalini is ignored, the aspirant will still experience it as part of the journey to realization in one form or other. Your experience is good evidence of this fact. If the nature of kundalini, its various symptoms, and the associated causes and effects are not understood, it can lead to delays in our development, because the risk of falling into unknowing distraction with our inner energies will be much higher.

Like self-inquiry, a smooth and natural unfoldment of kundalini can be facilitated by developing a good foundation of inner silence (the witness). Once that has been done via deep meditation, then other methods can be applied to assure a safe and progressive cultivation of kundalini, the ecstatic energetic side of our nature that leads first to ecstatic energy flowing, and later on to direct perception of the transcendent shining radiance that is within us and everywhere in our environment. It is pratyahara, the introversion of our sensory perception.

This is important, because full realization will not occur until both inner silence and ecstatic conductivity have matured and joined within us. It is a process of purification and opening. This is the essential neurobiology of enlightenment found wherever human spiritual transformation is occurring, no matter what means are being utilized, including self-inquiry.

Self-inquiry will not find its fruition until all of the associated inner neurobiological processes have reached their maturation and fulfillment. In a previous lesson (#328), we called it "becoming ripe." If we do not attend to these processes in a systematic manner, they will occur anyway, possibly in a chaotic way. If we have a choice (and we do), then a systematic approach will be preferred by most of us over an approach leading through chaos. Not only that systematic is much faster than chaotic, so it is an easy choice. If we want to be stubborn about it and ignore the inevitable stages of inner transformation in favor of a fixed philosophical approach, then we will pay the price in both progress and comfort.

Those who are truly able to let go will notice the energetic processes occurring within them, and do what is necessary to optimize them for a speedy and safe journey into realization. Those who hang on to a fixed view will face the ironic situation of hanging on to letting go, to the exclusion of everything else, including the actual process of human spiritual transformation that is occurring!

Kundalini is a vast subject, which can fill volumes. We will not overdo it here. Nor do we overdo it anywhere in the AYP writings. It is an aspect of the whole of our realization that should be taken into account, and is covered as necessary to support the over all journey. We will know it when we see it, and be much better prepared to move ahead rather than become stalled in energy distractions. Relational self-inquiry can be used to favor progress in stillness over the temptations of infatuation with the inevitable ecstatic energy experiences that will happen along the way. We can release them in self-inquiry, just as we can all identifications with experience we may be prone to indulge in. 

Yoga addresses the energetic side of our development through pranayama (breathing techniques), asanas (postures), mudras and bandhas (inner physical maneuvers), and tantric methods (the management of sexual energy in particular). All of these are easily incorporated into our sitting practices and the normal conduct of our daily life, in the same way that self-inquiry is naturally incorporated when we find the witness coming up and know that we are ready.

It is all part of the same journey, and no part of it is favored over the other. Each aspect evolves in its own time, and we know that each step is the right one by its natural emergence and observable results. In that sense, all yoga practices are known by their relational resonance with each other, our inner silence, and our every day activities. We will know we are in balance if life is getting better, even as we are moving steadily into a condition of non-duality, which is no condition at all, of course.

Self-inquiry has a direct role to play in the unfoldment of kundalini as it purifies and opens us via the central channel, or spinal nerve, running between our perineum and center brow. It is an aspect of a key ability developed in deep meditation to simply allow the kundalini process to occur as it will while naturally favoring the release of our attention in stillness. This helps us to avoid going off into flights of fancy when dramatic kundalini symptoms occur.

It is like all experiences in life. We gradually come to know them to be waves upon the ocean of our infinite inner silence, our Self. The difference between kundalini experiences and the rest of our experiences in life is that kundalini experiences can be dramatic, involving a range of physical symptoms, large surges of inner energy and ecstasy, visions, sounds and other internal sensory perceptions. The emotions can also be affected, sometimes positively and sometimes negatively in the case of excessive energy flows. All of this will have a corresponding effect on our mind, and this is why self-inquiry (relational in stillness) can be very helpful. We know that it is all just scenery we are passing by on the road to realization. 

As purification and opening advance in our nervous system, the dramatic kundalini symptoms give way to refined flows of ecstatic bliss associated with the shimmering movement of stillness within us, and the flow of divine love outward from us, encompassing our surroundings. It is then that our perception of the witness (our Self) expands to encompass our surroundings also. So it is the advancement of the kundalini process that leads to our perception of non-duality and unity everywhere in our daily life. This is the role of kundalini in the realization of the non-duality of life, even as we continue to be fully engaged in it. 

Along the way, while the scenery is not important in itself, we can enjoy it, and it has relevance for gauging our speed and comfort on the path. If we are going too fast (too heavy on practices) then the symptoms of purification can become intense, causing us considerable discomfort and/or potential distraction. The process of introversion of sensory perceptions (pratyahara) can be moving too fast sometimes. It is important for us to be inquiring about the intensity of our experiences, so we can make adjustments in practices to maintain smooth progress with safety. If we don't do this, we can end up overdoing to the point where we will not be able to practice at all for a while. Then we will have to implement the appropriate kundalini remedies (see Lesson 69) and wait until balance is reestablished again before resuming practices (including self-inquiry), which can take valuable time.

We have called this process of gauging the intensity of experiences and scaling our practices accordingly, self-pacing. It is an important part of the AYP approach, and is also an aspect of self-inquiry. We always favor the practice over the experience, and scale our practice according to the intensity of the experience, as needed.

The energetic/kundalini side of the process of human spiritual transformation is an aspect that is best not ignored. And neither should it be over-indulged in.

The guru is in you.

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Note: For detailed discussion on the practical utilization of self-inquiry, and its relationship to kundalini awakening, see the Self-Inquiry book and the Liberation book, and AYP Plus.

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