This is how the world as we know it began…. Once before time was created, Shiva set in deep meditation. Shakti danced all around him, but he took no notice. He just continued to sit in mediation. Shakti longed for Shiva to join her. Spinning, whirling, creating chaos, she continued her dance.
Finally, her desire for Shiva became so intense that he opened his third eye and joined her in the dance. The two united and Consciousness became aware of itself. Shiva’s focus and Shakti’s creativity brought forth the whole universe.
Or so they say….
Chakras, Kundalini-Shakti, and Sushumna Nadi? Oh, my!
Kundalini-Shakti is a Hindu goddess. The word Kundalini literally means “snake” in Sanskrit. It is prana, or energy, coiled like a snake at the base of the spine just waiting to arise. As a form of Shakti, divine feminine energy, she invites us to wake up and join her in the cosmic dance.
Kundalini is not a physical phenomenon. She is not something that can be seen by dissection or through an x-ray. Rather, she is an energy that courses through our subtle, or pranic, body. She ascends through the Sushumna Nadi, or the central channel of this body. The location of that channel could be described in terms of our spine. Its base is near our anatomical tailbone and it ascends through the crown of our head.
The seven major chakras are located along Sushumna Nadi. The word chakra means “wheel” because it is thought to be shaped like a spinning disk. This is a perfect analogy for those of us who are familiar with compact disks. Our spinning chakras contain energetic information the way a CD contains information for our computer or stereo. The information contained by the chakras includes everything from experience we had in the womb, to childhood, to our sexual awakening, and beyond! They contain our traumas and our shadows, as well as our proudest and most accomplished moments. They contain things that we consciously forgot and things that we will always remember.
Is your Kundalini woke?
A Kundalini awakening is said to occur when all seven of the major chakras are opened. People who have had Kundalini awakenings describe the experience in different ways. For some, the experience is absolutely blissful and leaves them with a deep sense of peace. Others have very negative experiences that may include things like emotional breakdowns, frightening visions, and even physical illness that makes them bedridden. In her book Eastern Body Western Mind, therapist and yoga teacher Anodea Judith says that when she experienced her first Kundalini awakening she noticed feeling more sensitive and creative, but less sexual. She also noticed a reduction in appetite and a decreased need for sleep (Judith, 451-452).
Many spiritual practitioners are very concerned about Kundalini awakenings. As we have become more educated and aware of their occurrence, there has been a tendency to see Kundalini awakenings as some sort of grand achievement on the spiritual path. After all, if our chakras are opened and we’ve realized oneness with the Divine, we must be pretty darn special, right?
Well, yes…. We are all special. And none of us are special. Whether we have had a Kundalini awakening does not make us more or less special or spiritual than anyone else. In fact, even those of us who do not describe our psycho-social-spiritual development in terms like “chakras” and “Kundalini” are still on path of self-actualization. This path is not exclusive to any one group of people but is one that all humans are on- even if we do not realize it! The judgement, pre-occupation with, and extreme emphasis that the metaphysical, high-consciousness community -of which many yoga practitioners consider themselves to be a part- places on Kundalini awakenings is a spiritual vanity.
A daily practice for those who want to go really deep!
For those of us who have had Kundalini awakenings, it is okay to honor our experience. Such an experience may have even been so profound that it changed our lives! Those of us who have not had Kundalini awakenings, there is no shame in being Kundalini-curious! There is also no shame in not caring one way or the other. Far more important to our spiritual development than whether or not we have had, will have, or even care about Kundalini awakenings are the following five questions anyone can ask themselves at the end of each day:
Was I kind?
Was I truthful?
Was I generous and did I take no more for myself than I needed?
Did I act with integrity?
Did I hold my life, experience, and the people around me with a closed fist or an open palm?
Judith, Anodea. Eastern Body, Western Mind. 2nd edition. Berkley, Celestial Arts, 2004.
Kempton, Sally. Awakening Shakti. Boulder, Sounds True, 2013.