Friday, November 18, 2011

Kundalini Rising and the Spirit

I've been reading a bit on spiritual experiences, trying to see if my personal experiences are paralleled by others.  What I'm finding is that they are, perhaps quite commonly, but I am pretty sure that the literature about spiritual experiences does NOT reflect my view of them.

Let me explain. 

A spiritual experience for me is where I feel something extraordinary about my context or thoughts, and am enlightened by new, inspired knowledge that I did not previously have.  For me the experience of the spirit is a feeling in my spine and in my very being that rises to the top of my head and I feel a warmth and a 'presence' surround me.  It's a great feeling.  It's a feeling of bliss, and of joy.

At times in my life, I have been able to cultivate this as a daily feeling, associated with prayer and meditation.  In fact, to me, a satisfying prayer/meditation session is one where this feeling is present at some point, and my very soul is comforted.

At times as well, just prior to engaging in a presentation or where I need to be 100%, and I've felt some stress or anxiety about what I'm about to do, I find that this wordless prayer/meditation I do comes in handy to empty my mind, center my soul, and feel that presence so I can engage into my activity with confidence and with my full self, unencumbered by ego and self-worry.

So far, so good.  I think what I've laid out above is common to a lot of people. 

Having been in India for the past 18 months or so, I have felt this feeling at times very strongly.  When I first came to India in spring of 2010, I certainly knew Hindu philosophy and known a lot of Indian people.  I had years before been impressed with and studied the Bhagavad Gita, and felt some sort of kinship with the place, but had never gone there.  On the way, I decided to watch the movie "Gandhi", again, to refresh my memory of the sense of the place.  The movie was very spiritual to me (i.e., made me have the feelings I described above).

When I arrived, of course, the movie had sensitized me to a sense of the place.  So, when I arrived, and encountered the countryside, with people and animals everywhere, I had the same spiritual feeling I had during the movie, a sense of presence with India.  India is alive: the ground, the trees, the sky, the people, are all so packed together that there is a mutual life and being that surrounds me when I'm there. 

For me, this spiritual feeling kept arising day after day, often in ways that I found annoying.  As well, the work I am doing in India, to provide inclusion and access to services for the entire nation and its poor using Unique Identity is a very spiritual exercise to me.  I got to the point that these feelings of spirit, like electrical charges going through my spine, were disruptive to my effectiveness.

I had learned a term for this spiritual feeling, "Kundalini Rising".  Kundalini is supposed to be a cultivated feeling, one which requires some skill and expertise to manage.  That skill is called Kundalini Yoga, and, according to Carl Jung, could have adverse impacts on the individual.  True.  It was having adverse impacts on me.  I learned as well that Kundalini rising can have symptoms and effects that are akin to schizophrenia -- very disruptive, and ongoing, uncontrolled bouts of Kundalini rising are harmful.  Yet in moderation, the physiological effects are quite positive.

In learning this, the uncanny thing was that this feeling was exactly what I felt as a missionary or as a Christian in relation to my church or my personal relationship with God.  The idea that the spiritual feeling could be cultivated or harnessed was an entirely foreign concept to me.  The spirit is supposed to be a gift, the Gift of the Holy Spirit.  How was this supposed to work?

From what I can tell, Kundalini rising is physiologically a valid phenomenon -- it's a real response to some kind of emotional or physical stimulus, which has cascading effects through the nervous and endocrine systems of the body.  In moderation, Kundalini has a positive effect on brain chemistry.  This is as much as I got from a scientific point of view on the phenomenon. 

On the other hand, there is a lot of non-scientific mumbo-jumbo speculation about it.  Kundalini Yoga is entirely taught within the context of Hindu chakras, having no basis whatsoever in modern, verifiable science.  Kundalini-yoga also proposes that it is the only valid path to cultivating this energy -- something that I categorically reject, because if the feeling is real, then people of all types have been dealing with it for millennia, and just one non-scientific way does not make sense in the light that the feeling is there.

So, I have come to believe that Kundalini rising is the physiological response to that which we perceive as spiritual.  I think it is a phenomenon worth studying in a western context without the mumbo-jumbo, and with sensitivity that we as humans need to feel this spirit to be connected.  I cannot yet find this balance of scientific with spiritual about the subject in the literature, but I'm still looking.

If you read this, and have ideas, please let me know.

No comments:

Post a Comment