‘Kundalini’ is one of the most misunderstood words in all of yoga, meditation and the spiritual world in general. As much as it’s also one of the most commonly used and abused words, the confusion surrounding it isn’t surprising, if you take a moment to think about it. Just as no two people are exactly the same, something as intensely personal as kundalini also catalyses an inevitably unique experience. On top of that, how many people really have a first-hand, bodily understanding of the phenomenon? (Too many books, too little practice!) Even so, there are also underlying similarities in the experience of kundalini, just as certain basic traits may be found in all people. Here are my experiences:
Kundalini is the energy which links body to spirit…
Most of us live our lives completely within the prison of our physical bodies, disconnected from the greater truth of reality. This is especially true in modern society. When kundalini fully activates, we reconnect to spirit.
We don’t have to believe in spirit and the soul to experience kundalini – but once we have fully tasted it, first-hand knowledge of the soul or ‘God’ pours into our existence. There’s no longer any need to believe or not to believe. You know.
Since kundalini creates a link between body and spirit, it therefore manifests in both the physical and subtler ‘spiritual’ bodies…
Our physical body and spiritual ‘energy’ body exist within one another, superimposed like parallel images projected upon the same screen. Ultimately, the two are simply different aspects of our full Being. But since most people live from the perspective of only their physical body and its five senses, it appears that the two are separate – or even that nothing exists beyond the physical world.
Our physical nervous system with its network of nerves running throughout the body corresponds to the countless nadis, or subtle channels, which run throughout the energy body. Nerve plexuses, as well as the physical glandular system, correspond to the main chakras of the energy body. As a result of this connection, when kundalini manifests in the nadis and/or chakras, it inevitably affects the electrical charge of the nervous system and/or the release of hormones in the glandular system, as the energy infuses through the physical body. Conversely, from within the limitations of the physical body, we can also stimulate a degree of kundalini in the energy body by harnessing various nerve plexuses and networks, as well as by generating intense emotion. It is a two-way street.
A route-map of kundalini:
When kundalini moves through the nadis – and therefore the physical nervous system – there are various routes it can take. Classically, it moves through sushumna, the nadi which corresponds to the spinal cord, and which connects the chakras. Just as the spinal cord is the ‘superhighway’ of the central nervous system, so sushumna is likewise capable of handling the highest ‘voltages.’ The so-called central channel also provides an equally important route for kundalini. Located in the centre of the body, running parallel to and in front of the spine, it corresponds physically to the vagus nerve. Kundalini can also manifest on the surface of the body, in which case the peripheral nerves are involved in transmitting energy.
Just as the physical nervous system may be likened to an electrical circuit, so too the nadi system operates in a similar fashion. Another analogy is that of a plumbing system — which is also easier to understand for those of us who aren’t so familiar with voltage, amperage and ohms! In plumbing there are three basic factors: (1) the internal width of the pipes, (2) the quantity of water flowing through the pipes and (3) the pressure caused by the relationship between (1) and (2). The nadis correspond to the size of the pipes and kundalini to the flowing water.
Sensation of kundalini varies widely, depending on how and where the chakras and nadis open, as well as how much energy is involved…
Kundalini energy manifests in the physical body through sensations of heat/cold, tingling, light and sound. It’s no coincidence that electricity can cause all of these symptoms as well. As a child, I once managed to ‘plug myself in’ to an electrical mains plug. You can imagine the burning heat and tingling vibrations… As far as sound is concerned, think of the electrical ‘hum’ that so many appliances generate. Sensations of light can be caused both by electromagnetic fields and by certain hormones.
When kundalini activates a chakra, it stimulates the associated physical gland. As a result, strong and sometimes unexplained emotions may arise. When the pineal gland and pituitary gland activate, for instance, scientists would say that their hormones can ‘cause’ visions and/or the appearance of lights, along with blissful emotions. I would argue that, in fact, the opposite comes closer to the truth. When we are ‘open’ and our higher chakras are likewise open to the influx of energy, then the hormones released by the pineal and pituitary glands simply allow us to become more receptive to such visions and lights which lie beyond the physical plane.
Returning to the ‘plumbing’ analogy, unfortunately most of us live with a clogged system. Life-long emotional tightness, physical neglect of our body, less than ideal nutrition: all these contribute to the breakdown – and so we feel nothing, just the limitations of a physical body. Certain spiritual systems – especially traditions of yoga and meditation dealing with inner energy – aim both to ‘clean up’ the pipes, as well as to increase the flow of water through the system. Hopefully, this happens gradually, in which case subtle sensations may begin to occur at those points in the physical body which correspond to the chakras and nadis. Similarly, the emotional impact of increased energy flow tends to take place more gradually, more subtly, without any great upheavals.
When kundalini awakens like this, it may take months, years or even decades. Over such an extended time-frame, there are also often periods during which receptivity to kundalini seems to decline. This can be a consequence of the body adapting to new biochemistry, and is a perfectly natural process.
Sometimes, though, all the blocks clogging our plumbing come loose at once and are ‘exploded’ in a massive surge of energy through the chakras and nadis. The classic full ‘kundalini rise’ falls into this category, in which energy surges up from the pelvic floor area, through the spine, into the skull and out the top of the crown, thus joining with infinity. In addition to meditation techniques, emotional trauma (and surrendering to such trauma) can also cause a sudden flow of kundalini, whether the stress builds up over a period of time until the dam breaks, or whether a sudden, intense shock unexpectedly crashes down upon us. And occasionally, it can happen without warning to anyone at any time. So watch out :-).
Even without intentionally trying to raise inner energy, many people still experience a degree of kundalini energy, often without realising it. Examples include full-body orgasms and bursts of energy shooting up the spine, released by squeezing the pelvic floor. In these cases, though, the degree of energy isn’t usually enough to fully link the physical body with the spiritual body. We may not gain full experience of the soul or ‘God,’ but we may sometimes catch a glimpse…
The key point to remember, though, is that everybody is unique. Each of our life stories is unique. And we all carry with us uniquely different karma. The experience of kundalini is therefore also inevitably unique. If, instead of seeking it like treasure hunters, we allow kundalini to manifest on its own and in its own time, then we actually open up more space for it to open us.