In my career as a Clinical Qigong Therapist, I have come across many simplistic explanations of Kundalini that diminish the complex multi-dimensionality that makes up the process of Kundalini awakening. This dynamic force is much more than merely stirring sexual energy through one’s body. Even more important, I would like to bring awareness to the many common misinterpretations and misuses of this mysterious substance. And how it can end in scarring the etheric body to a degree from which it is hard to recover. This article is an extensive exploration of the Kundalini awakening and the many factors that are involved. I intend to provide information to allow you to make your own decisions.
There are no shortcuts when it comes to spiritual awakening.
The ancient Daoists gained their insights and wisdom from observing nature and its laws. In their investigation, they found the profound paradox that lies hidden in all layers of existence: that nature does not strive for anything, yet accomplishes everything. This observation highlights that there is an underlying mysterious force that works itself upon creation; it explains that life is in constant movement. This force the Chinese call the “Dao.”
The Dao is the force of evolution, bringing change and order to life. According to Daoist philosophy, we either live in harmony with the Dao, or we don’t. To live in harmony with the Dao, we have to live according to its laws and pace. Our obsession for instant gratification in our modern society goes against this principle.
We can see the same desires reflected in the mainstream spiritual movements where many techniques and methods are there to satisfy the need for immediate satisfaction. As a result, we have lost touch with the fulfillment that comes from watching something develop and grow over time. Just like with our spiritual growth, there are no shortcuts, no quantum leaps, nor accelerated ways to enlightenment. Real growth develops in harmony with the very forces of evolution. Regardless of what our mind can trick us into believing, we cannot separate ourselves from these unfathomable universal powers. But what is this mysterious substance? What is Kundalini energy?
What is a Kundalini Awakening?
Kundalini is a primordial substance, meaning it pre-exists the birth of our Universe. The Chinese consider this ancient force with such a high level of purity without preparing for kundalini integration, these ancient fires will force their way through all the impurities in your physical and etheric bodies. You can compare this to an extreme detox without having the proper nutritional and energetic resources, the detox will cause more damage to the body. Using this analogy to the energetic body, it might appear to you that you are making progress with the Kundalini energy arising, but in fact, you are slowing your spiritual development.
When we desperately want something to happen, our mind will simulate it for us. The power of suggestion of our own minds has to be taken into account when assessing the true nature of a Kundalini Awakening. The real deal awakening is rare and not like most people describe it to be.
As a Traditional Chines Medicine Therapist, I come in contact with hundreds of people who have had profound experiences of Kundalini rising. But only in rare cases have they successfully been able to arouse the Kundalini. Many describe their awakening without realizing they are experiencing symptoms rather than an actual awakening. For example, women have described going through menopause and experiencing hot flashes that create intense burning sensations that are interpreted as a Kundalini arousal. This is a symptom and has nothing to do with Kundalini. Men have associated pain in the perineum and scrotum as a Kundalini awakening, which is also a symptom and can actually be a sign of using dangerous Kundalini techniques. There are many more cases with misinterpretation, which brings me to the potential dangers when it comes to Kundalini practices.
The Dangers of Working with Primordial Fires
Working with Kundalini is not child-play. It is reserved only for the advanced practitioner who has developed an absolute physical strength and etheric endurance needed to harness the powers of these primordial fires. This is not to create a false hierarchy where one practitioner is more special than the next, but to consider your safety and to assist your spiritual development sustainably. Psychosis, delirium, manic behavior are more common outcomes of wrong use of Kundalini than most people think.
The forced arousal of the Kundalini fires burn up the etheric pathways in the spine. As a result, it creates a semi-permanent (meaning, in some cases, it takes lifetimes to recover) disconnection between spirit and body — causing extreme ungroundedness, dissociative behavior, and in more extreme cases delirium. In all circumstances, the practitioner, not utilizing the energy correctly, becomes unable to distinguish between what is real and unreal. Their spiritual experiences are very “out there,” and their wisdom is hard to integrate practically into the real world. They speak of profound realizations, yet their personal life is a total mess. Their spiritual beliefs are extreme and dogmatic; this causes a rift between their spiritual self (the one they have developed through the conceptual glimpse from the practice) and the reality of who they are as a person. Hence the potential for the rapid onset of mental health issues.
In some cases the symptoms develop slowly and because they are somewhat mysterious it is difficult to relate it to the wrongful use of Kundalini. Here is one example:
I once met a man in his 30’s with an extensive background in Kundalini practices, primarily Kundalini Yoga. He knew of my experience in Traditional Chinese Medicine and asked if I could explain some mysterious symptoms he was dealing with for a while now. He told he had an oppressive feeling in his chest and felt cut off from the lower part of his body. There were no other apparent symptoms. I immediately asked about the specifics of his practice. He said that he had been using Kundalini to increase the light in his heart area to open it up.
Once the first stage of Kundalini unfoldment happens, we gain the ability to use these fires as a catalyst. When we bring the fires up in the chest, it results in a massive brief increase of light and openness. But unfortunately not without sacrifice. So, I explained to him that the Kundalini catalyzation creates a temporary concentration of light. And that concentrated light burns light. It burns through the Yin and nurturing substances in the area where the fires are activated. Which, over time, creates stagnation and inflammation due to depletion.
And in his case, he was able to bypass an underlying problem that was preventing his heart from blossoming open naturally, which is what he wanted in the first place. Chronic suppression of emotions caused a disconnection between the lower abdomen and the chest, preventing a healthy flow of Qi connecting the heart center with the sacral center. The heart is like a tree and the sacral like the soil in which the tree sits. Just like a tree without soil will not blossom, the petals of the heart center will not unfold without being adequately rooted in the earth of the sacral center.
My advice was to focus on the emotions he was trying to bypass and avoid using fancy techniques. And I helped to adjust his practice to suit his specific makeup, which made the symptoms go away. Luckily he is still in his prime, which makes it very easy for him to recover from the damage he caused internally. But there are countless cases where Qi, Kundalini, and mind are forcefully used to create the desired outcome, but end up being much harder to recover from.
Now that we have explored the dangers of awakening the Kundalini it is important to explore the stages of Kundalini awakening to help you understand its complexity.
Stages of Kundalini Development
According to ancient Chinese texts, the specific development and arousal of the fire at the base of the spine (Kundalini) depend entirely on someone’s constitution, spiritual level, and emotional equilibrium. Kundalini activates the energy centers in the body, but how it does and in which order, is different for each person. No integration is the same. But there are some guidelines.
At the first stage of unfoldment, Kundalini at the base of the spine still pertains to the fires of matter. In other words, the awakening is purely physical. Meaning, these fires have no spiritual effect (no advancement of supernatural gifts, mind awakening is conceptual) and are solely focused on the refinement of the physical by increasing the vitality and frequency of all the cells in the body. Whilst that is happening, the practitioner is unaware of this process. Because at this stage, he is ungrounded, disassociated, and disconnected from reality, because of the gap between his spiritual-awareness and bodily-awareness, i.e., the mind can experience bliss during meditation, while the body is in pain undergoing transformation. Hence, awareness of the higher self is seen as purely conceptual at this stage.
At the second stage of unfoldment, the fires of matter now combine with the fires of Qi or Prana. The light generated from this level of unfoldment initiates the birthing of the light bodies. Due to the increased vitality of the physical body, the etheric body starts to harness more light, thus creating the light body. This refinement of Qi into light causes an awakening of the third eye. As a result, the practitioner starts to develop his psychic gifts, i.e. becoming aware of his auric field. For example, he can observe the difference between his physical, etheric, emotional, and mental body, making him more conscious of which level he operates on. At this stage of development, the practitioner is increasingly aware of his own higher self.
At the last stage of Kundalini unfoldment, the fires of Matter, Qi, and Mind are integrated as a whole; this is a rare and exceptional level of development. The practitioner is consciously aware of his higher self and can operate from this level in daily life with full lucidity. No further information can be shared out of safety for the practitioner.
As Kundalini unfolds it increases the complexity of one’s makeup. In other words, when we evolve and grow spiritually, we become more unique and one of a kind. This next section offers some explanation of how this works.
The Complex Nature of a Kundalini Awakening
The threefold nature of Kundalini (the fires of Matter, Qi, and Mind) pertains to the three major centers in the head (the pineal gland, the pituitary body, the alta major center). As Kundalini develops, it activates each of these centers activating specific spiritual gifts and powers. As these centers evolve the auric field around the head grows in complexity. Before Kundalini awakens this field is chaotic, without any order and the light is dull. As the awakening progresses, the light increases, and with the activation of each major center, geometric shapes appear. The more each center develops and expands, the more complex geometric shapes become. This is one way for a teacher to gauge the level of spiritual development of his students and offers specific guidance to help him along with his unique unfoldment.
It takes incredible insight only brought on by experience for a teacher to be able to guide a student effectively, and most importantly, safely. It is an extremely delicate process, and to understand why, we have to explore the intricate mechanics of the Microcosmic orbit.
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Understanding the Mechanics to the Microcosmic Orbit
The microcosmic orbit is called the “Self Winding Wheel” in Daoist Qigong. Its nature is deep and complex. I will only be able to cover the basics in this article, so bare in mind, it does not fully reflect its multi-dimensionality. The microcosmic orbit consists of two “Extraordinary Meridians,” called the Du Mai (Governing Vessel) and the Ren Mai (Conception Vessel).
The primary pathway of the Du Mai has its origin deep within the lower abdomen (i.e. in the area of the lower dantian). It emerges to the surface of the body at the base of the spine, (midway between the tip of the coccyx and the anus) and then ascends along the midline of the sacrum and through the interior of the spinal column. At the nape of the neck, one branch enters the brain and emerges at the crown of the head, and another continues up along the back of the skull. From the crown of the head, the channel descends along the midline of the forehead and nose to its final point, at the junction of the upper lip and gum.
The Ren Mai originates in the uterus in females and in the lower abdomen in males and emerges onto the surface of the body at the perineum. From there it ascends along the midline of the abdomen, chest, throat, and jaw, ending just below the lower lip. An internal portion of the channel then winds around the mouth, connecting with Du Mai above the upper lip.
Du Mai is also called the Sea of Yang, as it is the most Yang out of all the meridians.
Rean Mai is also called the Sea of Yin, as it is the most Yin out of all the meridians.
The Du Mai (Governing Vessel) runs threefold, consisting of three intertwining meridians that make a whole. During each stage of Kundalini arousal, one of the three channels opens and fills with Qi or Prana. Unfortunately, most practitioners, without proper guidance, are stuck at trying to bring the Qi up in the first channel. The stuck energy produces a form of “constipation” where the Qi stagnates, which over time causes pain and discomfort in the physical spine, combined with stiffness in one particular point. Depending on the practitioner’s specific makeup. The stiffness is felt in different areas of the spine, which are related to what we call “Psychic Knots”.
Each Psychic Knot pertains to a particular psychological issue a person has to work through; making Kundalini practices much more than a fancy energy technique. Therefore, there are psychological implications to be considered which I will try and outline. I can only offer hints and not full explanations for you, because every person is different.
Psychic Knots Along the Du Mai Channel
As the Kundalini rises, it pushes through any impurities in the Governing Vessel. Most of the “psychic or energetic dirt” accumulates around the primary points called Psychic Knots or Gates known as Sanguan.
The Four Main Knots and their Psychological Meaning:
The First Knot the Kundalini fires test is at the base of the spine: called Changqiang. If you experience a sharp stabbing pain at the base of the spine, including the perineum and the anus; do not be alarmed, this is common. But do know it means that the fires are already over-aroused and you need guidance at this stage.The base center controls the adrenal glands, which are responsible for regulating the stress response (fight, freeze, flight), through the synthesis of corticosteroids and catecholamines, including cortisol (glucose balance) and adrenaline (sodium balance). The same adrenal response is triggered when a person is suffering from PTSD.
Psychological Implications: At the base of the spine we harbor our unconscious fears and instincts for survival, but also the impulse for success and achievement (ambition and responsibility). When our spiritual life and day-to-day life are incongruent this center will not develop fully. In other words, if your house, finances, and relationships are a mess, your spiritual life is a mess. Kundalini practices at this stage are strongly discouraged because it is important to enhance and strengthen your etheric body first to prevent harm.
The lesson pertaining to this center is to give order to a person’s life; home, finances, relationships need to become congruent with the higher self.
The Second Knot is called Ming Men: located underneath the second lumbar vertebra. This point is the gate to the Sacral Center, also called the Lower Dan Tian in Chinese Medicine. It houses Jing (Reproductive and Nutritive Essence), which forms the foundational vitality for the physical and etheric bodies. It is rare for a practitioner to bring Kundalini up to this point.
The sacral energies in the Lower Dan Tian are polarized in nature, creating the basis for the sexual powers. When activated, this center has a powerful attractive or magnetic quality towards its complementary opposite (charisma).
Psychological Implications: In the Lower Dan Tian or Sacral Center, we harbor our unconscious ideas of who we think we are, but also the impulse to connect, create community or family. When our personality (false self), and soul (true or higher self) are incongruent this center will not develop fully. In other words, if you are more obsessed with a persona rather than authentically being yourself; your home, community, and work are incongruent with who you truly are.
The lesson pertaining to this center is honesty with self; where authenticity is key. Great questions for self-reflection on this life could be: Where are you pretending to be someone else? Are you covering up the cracks in your personality? What are you spiritually bypassing? What layers of reality are you denying?
The Third Knot is in between the shoulder blades, called Shendao (Spirit Pathway). It relates to the Heart Center, also called the Middle Dan Tian in Chinese Medicine. Through this center, we can sense the presence of our Soul (Shen).The heart processes all thoughts, feelings, and emotions, which we can call sensations. Our heart center can only process the sensations properly when we are fully present in the moment. As soon as we are disconnected or ungrounded the heart loses its ability to transmute the influx of sensations. As a result, the sensations overflow from the heart into the body and turn into tension. The main area affected by this is the diaphragm and solar plexus. Chronic disconnect or ungroundedness causes the heart to close over time. As a result, the gate to the heart center in between the shoulder blades closes.
The lesson pertaining to this center is to be present to all sensations. The heart teaches us the qualities of love, where we learn to embrace everything as it comes to us; the good and bad. All Inclusiveness with deep presence is key. When we avoid our feelings this gate closes and it is hard to get in touch with our feelings.
The Fourth Knot is at the base of the skull, called the Alta Major Center or the Mouth of God. This is a mysterious gate and not much information is available. At a high level of spiritual development, this center forms an etheric bridge between the fires of the spine (Kundalini) and the energies of the head (crown and third eye), which gives it the ability to bring down the intuitive vision into conscious awareness. The development of this center is highly advanced and cannot happen before the maturation of the Throat Center. More cannot be shared as spiritual growth at this level is highly unique. Techniques and lessons have to be personalized.
It is hard to see the forest through the trees when it comes to spiritual practices. There are many hyped-up and fantastical methodologies that are out to produce quick results. However tempting that might sound it is never a good thing to strive for accelerated growth through unnatural means. If you are inspired by what you’ve read so far and you are looking to either adjust your current practice or you are looking for a place to start. I want to share what I have learned over the years.
This is where you can begin: Introducing the Water Path.
Strengthening the etheric body is an empowering place to start. There are two main streams of Kundalini practices that are called the Fire and Water path. Many practitioners are unknowingly practicing the Fire Path. But the Fire path is avoided at all cost, as it negates the need to the fortification of the etheric body. The Water Path is the exact opposite. Water is used to contain Fire, making it a sustainable and very effective practice.
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