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