Kundalini Shakti (part 1)
Kundalini is Shakti, supreme energy,
whom the sages of India worship as the Mother of the Universe.
Shakti is the consort of Shiva.
She is the active aspect of the formless, attributeless Absolute.
… Dwelling within the center of the heart,
… Her play is the creation, sustenance, and dissolution of this world.
~ Swami Muktananda, Kundalini: The Secret of Life. (1979)
In 1982, a week before Christmas, I was awakened at 6am by a neighbor’s call. I went to my window to see flames emerging from the upstairs windows of the house across the street from mine. I heard the sirens of the fire department as they were approaching. My dear friend and and his little seven-year-old daughter perished in those flames, and I could not escape the reminder that her playmate, my own little daughter, had slept in that house just two nights before. The shock, horror, and grief are still unspeakable. There is so much more to this story that I won’t share here as I am writing a book that includes the entire story. The fire happened in a house that was a mirror image of my own, and that fire moved into my body, especially my heart, that very day as I and my two children witnessed the entire event until nightfall. Fire continued to burn in my chest, my heart, day after day, month after month, along with other strange phenomena appearing. As it did, I became more frightened. I knew what grief was but this was much more than that.
This fire and loss of my friends ignited a massive Kundalini awakening in me that was unusually volcanic. Most Kundalini awakenings I have witnessed in others have been gradual and gentle. Mine was terrifying at times, and I feared I was losing my mind. I did not know about Kundalini energy, nor did anyone else I knew, as this happened before most of us in the western world had even heard of Kundalini. Apparently there was a tidal wave of Kundalini awakenings moving through the planet in the early 80’s that I only became aware of years later as I heard from others across the country who also experienced it. I was in Jungian analysis at the time and was given many powerful initiatory dreams that foreshadowed this enormous event months and weeks before it occurred, though I did not know my dreams were prophetic. My analyst called one in particular an initiation dream, though I didn't know what spiritual initiation was at that time.
I was terrified as the phenomena escalated for several months with no relief. I experienced my face becoming a black hole into the vastness, even though I could see that it was there as well as feel my touch on it. The skin on my body was constantly burning, I could barely stand the touch of anyone other than my kids. I meditated and prayed a lot, asked for help and understanding of what was happening to me. A few months into this, a very close friend of mine intuited that he should make a plaster mask on my face. At that point, I was willing to do anything and felt the ritual was important, though I didn’t know what, if anything, would happen. To our surprise, the more the cool, wet plaster strips were laid over my face, the more I felt the energies become contained and my nervous system calm. The burning in my body also began to subside and finally did within hours. After that, more amazing synchronistic things began to happen in my life. Every question that arose in me would somehow be answered by the appearance of a book, a person, an event, or another dream. My spiritual practice had deepened through these months and guidance began to flow in as never before.
Divine Arrangement was continually providing whatever was needed as I went along on this remarkable mystery ride into the Unknown, and in a matter of months my true work in the world was revealed. I was in a new life, with so much more yet to unfold. I entered the world with my work, which was centered on the Sacred Feminine archetypes at the time, in a way I had never imagined. A friend and I put together a choreographed dance/poetry performance piece which I wrote on four core archetypes of the Feminine and presented it at the D.C. Jung group. As an introvert, this was so out of my old world of experience, and yet I went on to give other multi-media archetypal presentations around the area. I was invited to present at conferences, gave workshops, and everything was guided, effortless, and I was the most amazed at what unfolded. Even now I am still amazed. After this initial event, my psychotherapy practice transformed to serve mostly women in the helping professions and arts, as well as others from different walks of life who were already experiencing Kundalini and not knowing what it was, or about to have the awakening. Within a few months of the mask making ritual and subsequent dreams, I was led by a dream to open a healing center called Temenos Center, (temenos means ‘sacred space’ in Greek). A few years later I had a vision come to me and, before long, it manifested and a women’s mystery school emerged. This is the Temple of the Sacred Feminine. I often heard myself wondering, “Who, me? Why me? I have no idea how to do this.” Yet, it all happened, one breadcrumb at a time, as I listened and followed the guidance--even when others were telling me it was impractical or crazy.
Awakening of the Divine Feminine
The awakening of Kundalini Shakti within us is the awakening of the Divine Feminine in both women and men. It evokes ever-increasing opening of our hearts and access to Direct Experience, the most precious jewel in this exquisite lotus of our Being human. Shakti begins our immersion into the realization of our true divine nature as our identifications with our egoic selves and identities fall away over time. Our inner life becomes alive and juicy, open to exploration of shadow and the healing of old wounds, primal wounds, and the emergence of our radiant essence. Kundalini awakening is the beginning of a new stage of evolution of consciousness for each of us in that it activates extraordinary physical, psychological, neurological, and spiritual changes in unique ways for each of us. Changes in our outer lives usually occur, too. There can be a lot of upheaval at times.
Our vibration rises, we experience an alchemical transmutation of lower vibration emotions that offer us a change of heart and perspective that allows us to eventually see and directly experience the unitive field, the Oneness of everything. Kundalini awakening changes how we relate to ourselves and to others, offering us profound transformations in how we live our lives and see others and the world. Often it carries us straight into our true purpose here on the planet, and quite often rearranges our lives so that we find other members of our ‘soul family’. It is revolutionary in that the consciousness that emerges from this awakening expands our awareness as we move through our fears, attachments, limited thinking, and our sense of separation. Peace and joy become more accessible. Changes in Consciousness radically change life as we know it. There is great dissolution, as well as purification, in this alchemy of initiation, and some of the initiations we are called to are very challenging.
“Being all-pervasive, Kundalini is the witness of everything, the knower of everything that can be known. We cannot know Her, but she can know Herself. The sun illuminates the world and also illuminates itself, and in the same way the effulgent Kundalini, which illuminates the mind, the intellect, the senses and their objects, also illuminates Herself and makes Herself known.”
~ Swami Muktananda, Kundalini: The Secret of Life (1979)
Kundalini Shakti creates the entire universe out of her own Beingness. She has an outer aspect that appears to us as everything in creation, including ourselves. The inner aspect, the sleeping snake coiled at the base of the spine, is what/who awakens when She decides it is time for us. There are three places in our bodies that Kundalini can awaken: at the base of the spine in the muladhara chakra; in the heart, the anahata chakra; and in the head, at the third eye through the ajna chakra. There is no thing, nothing, that Kundalini Shakti is not. She not only creates but also abides in our bodies, our tiniest cells, in everything in creation, including you, your pets, the Rocky Mountains, the oceans, the stars and moon in the sky, as well as the tiniest microbes and most faraway galaxies. Kundalini is the essence of all that is in form in the entire universe! We all breathe Her in this same air, imbibe Her in each molecule of water that we drink. She is the calm and she is the storm. She gives life and She gives death. She is our doula when we are in the liminal space of Kairos, neither here nor there, where our egos struggle and feel helpless, and old structures of personality dissolve until we are like the caterpillar who becomes mush before emerging in the greatness and beauty of the Monarch butterfly. She is the prana, the life force that keeps us and everything alive. During my awakening process, when I was initially scared and wanting to know what was happening, books by Swami Muktananda came into my hands. I also received amazing confirmation in the beginning from a book my analyst suggested by Joan Halifax, written before she became a Roshi. It was called Shamanic Voices and was a collection of interviews she had done with shamans from various indigenous cultures about their Call to be a medicine person. Every chapter of that book offered another piece of the puzzle of what was happening to me, and it was jaw-dropping. “Who me? Why me?” was my mantra. At the time I was both delighted, scared, overwhelmed and loving the magic of it all. I am so grateful for the countless amazing Gifts that poured forth then and continue to this day.
We may not perceive any of this until Her inner aspect, the sleeping serpent at the base of our spines awakens, and then we directly experience her energetic presence and other phenomena within our bodies, hearts, energy fields, and lives. Kundalini Ma determines when it is time for Her to awaken and become active within us, and it is then that we are able to perceive Her presence and recognize that it is She who is perceiving through our eyes.
Kundalini Represented as Snake
In India, where spiritual awakening, enlightenment, has been known for thousands of years, the snake is the primary symbol of the Kundalini Shakti, the cosmic force that ignites and fuels our spiritual awakening process. Kundalini is a Sanskrit word meaning “coiled up," so the Kundalini Shakti is “the coiled one,” and is often depicted as a snake and referred to as serpent power. In various mythologies snake is seen as good and other mythologies as bad or evil. Our own creation myth and the patriarchal misogynists who wrote Genesis have chosen to see snake as evil and some religions still do.
This coiled Kundalini serpent power rests at the base of the spine until it is time for Her to awaken and rise up through the spine to our crown chakra. When contemporary women “meet the snake,” as our creation myth tells us that Eve did, it is both Eve-olutionary and revolutionary. In our creation myth, Eve, the so-called “mother of all” was denigrated and denied her rightful place as our Mother Goddess in our collective mythology and consciousness because of her defiance of the masculine god and her courage to meet the snake. It is my understanding that most creation myths do acknowledge a Mother Goddess – ours was shamed and taken away from us by a patriarchy projecting evil onto Snake. I consider Eve to be our Mother Goddess and a model of courage and sovereignty. Her story is prophetic of these times when Kundalini Shakti is awakening and is happening to so many all over the planet.
Meeting the Snake signifies the awakening of the Sacred Feminine energy of spiritual initiation, the feminine energy of manifestation. Shakti rises from her sleep in the muladhara, the base chakra, like a snake uncoiling up through the spine, emanates her energy throughout the body and auric field to meet her beloved, Shiva, the masculine energy representing the boundless, formless, un-manifested consciousness which we access at the crown chakra. This divine union of Shakti and Shiva, form and formlessness, opens our awareness beyond duality to ultimate Reality and brings the awareness of embodied divinity in us. From a dualistic perspective, Shiva is the masculine element of boundless consciousness and Shakti is the feminine energy that is everything in form; the two really are not separate, they are one. Kundalini Shakti initiations do not give us anything or add to what we are. Shakti Ma takes away what we are not and destroys the illusions we have about what we are and are not.
Kundalini is the energy of spiritual initiation and these initiations arise in the context of our fragile, ordinary, human lives. Life as we know it is imperfect, impermanent, and often feels incomplete. We can be powerful women and men and still feel helpless, hopeless, and heart-broken in the face of what Kundalini Shakti brings into our lives as teachers and portals to meeting Her. She can be totally delightful and full of play, love and joy, or She can appear as wrathful, cruel, and destructive. She can appear as the sweet Blessed Mother of Jesus or as Kali Ma, the Hindu goddess of destruction and creation. When Kundalini arises in our lives, we are in the territories of spiritual initiation where we meet both the holy and the horrible, death and rebirth, light and shadow, and we radically change as we awaken to Reality beyond duality.
Shakti rearranges us at all levels and, by Her Divine Arrangement, provides exactly what is needed, when it is needed, for direct experience. This is the treasure, the pearl of great price. If we can learn to be with what is, as it is, in our initiatory times, surrender happens. We deepen. We come to know Her through each and every direct experience. Our egoic minds, full of beliefs and stories, can slow down, especially as we bring our attention to our hearts, and be with what is in our heart in any given moment. Shakti’s timing is usually not what our egos want or like, and that is Her magic. She is in charge of our awakening consciousness, removing all obstacles to that. I say again, we don’t always like it, we don’t have to like it, and it is not always comfortable, but like a woman going through labor to birth a beautiful baby, it’s all worth it. She teaches us and guides us through the process, orchestrates everything perfectly, though not necessarily to the desires of our egoic perspective. It’s ok to not like what is, and that does not have to stop us from being with what is, rather than resisting, trying to change it, or wanting it to be different.
Our suffering comes from wanting what is to be different. I have had a lot of experience with that one and it’s a dead end. I didn’t like that my friends died in the fire, I didn’t like the pain and suffering that my children experienced from that, or the terror and pain that I went through in that initiation by fire, yet, when I began to understand what was happening, I shifted into being willing. Willingness magically softens the egoic resistance. We can even be willing to be willing to be with what is as it is. The price of being on this path for me has been more than I ever wanted to pay or thought that I could survive, and yet I have realized that nothing essential is lost, and no words can express what I continually receive. We are called to profound sacrifice in spiritual initiations. The Latin root words of sacrifice mean ‘to make sacred.’
Consider this: if you have lost someone or something utterly precious to you, for whatever reason, if you begin to relate to it and feel it as a sacrifice, something very mysterious and beautiful will happen in your heart. I have lost one of my children. Coming to the place where I learned to experience the pain of this loss as a sacrifice is what has saved me from the brutality of the many destructive voices that appeared at the beginning, when I was sure it was somehow my fault or that I could not live without her. The Kundalini Ma sent my daughter on her own karmic journey, and, while I still grieve and miss her beautiful physical presence, the unconditional love is still blooming in my heart. I am no longer resisting what is—and that, for me, is a miracle. Attachment to this being different has fallen away in the last year—and it has been 20 years. I am not saying this is easy, especially where our children are concerned. There’s work to do in the awakening process, especially around wanting things to be different and the suffering that brings. We may feel unable, helpless, angry etc. but Shakti Ma's Divine Arrangement shows up, especially when we ask, when we are willing, when we feel like we have no other choice. Love abides. I can now abide with what I thought was impossible, and I have walked with many others thru the fires of Shakti and have witnessed that they, too, can abide in Love in the face of what feels impossible and unbearable.
There is so much more to share about Kundalini initiations, which I will in time.
There is a film about Eve and Sacred Feminine Initiation available on my website under 'Products'. The film is called “Eve’s Fire” – a documentary by and about the women experiencing Sacred Feminine Initiation in the Temple of the Sacred Feminine.
If you are interested in exploring how Kundalini Shakti is working with you, we can arrange a half-hour discovery session online, and other appointments if desired. I am thinking about starting an online group for those dealing with Kundalini Shakti. If this calls to you, please email me: Sheila@templeofthesacredfeminine.com