(This article was originally published in HarshaSatsangh E- Magazine Volume I)
Twenty years ago, the kundalini-shakti erupted within myself. Since I didn’t have a clue about what had happened to me and I experienced some quite unpleasant side-effects of this awakening, I had to start looking for remedies in order to ease some of the discomfort. This has been a more or less ongoing process ever since and although I can’t say that all problems have disappeared, some interesting insights and experiences have been gained and that alone has made the journey very worthwhile.
The effects on the psyche, and on one’s ideas about oneself and life in general, that come about by an active kundalini are far reaching indeed, but this transformation seems to have a price attached to it. In my case I’ve been plagued by a variety of symptoms ranging from physical health problems to bouts of anxiety and depression. As a result, I’ve been led to closely observe and attempt to harmonize the innermost workings and mechanics of my mind and body using a variety of techniques and methods such as tai-chi, hatha-yoga and various types of meditation.
To Do Something, or Nothing?
As much as I agree with the advaitin conclusion about reality being One and the concept of separate personalities acting within reality being illusion, I think that the often heard claim that nothing actually needs to be done in order to realise this, will probably only be true for a small number of persons. I find that, in the case of myself at least, ( and I do believe this would apply to most people) some work on oneself using “techniques” is necessary in order to be able to experience this fundamental unity of life. The main reason appears to me to be the deeply ingrained innate patterns of body and mind that prevent a true perception of life.The experience of duality seems to be hardwired into our being by nature, so that definite changes have to take place within the perceiving mechanism of ourselves before reality becomes non-dualistic.
One spiritual discipline that seems to work on many different levels to me has been the practice of silent mantra-repetition. One of the first deeper insights or realisations came to me after I had practiced mantra-meditation for some time as taught by Transcendental Meditation or TM.
I was sitting in meditation one day, quietly repeating the mantra in thought, growing progressively calmer and relaxed as a result as the normal rush and clutter of the mind began to recede. Suddenly it hit hit me like bolt of lightning – I was inside “myself”, calmly watching the mantra repeating itself, calmly observing whatever thought-processes still passed through the mind – BUT I WASN’T THE MIND – I WAS THE OBSERVER OBSERVING THE MIND! An enormous sense of relief and gratitude welled up inside as I in one instant understood that everything that really created problems in my life was either mind or body, but that the real “I” was the silent and totally unaffected observer, calmly watching everything come and go.
This was a very profound experience since it in one instant blew the identification with the mind to bits. I had always somehow thought that I actually WAS the constant inner monologue and imagery playing themselves out and now this was shown to be not true at all in a perfectly clear way. I was actually the screen on which the mind with its movies was projected – but I wasn’t the images themselves.
I soon realised however that this was just a glimpse into the deeper reality, but not at all a permanent state of enlightened being – a lot of practice or sadhana seems to be necessary in order to shift the focus of consciousness for good, even though the awakened kundalini is a kind of automatic process in this direction.
After this, mantra practice began to intrigue me more and more, especially since I also became very sensitive to sound and music in particular. I would experience rushes of kundalini moving up the spine, followed by ecstatically blissful sensations listening to certain types of music or certain combinations of notes and harmonies.
I then began to experiment with other mantras and other methods of repetition. Whereas the TM-meditation in essence uses the mantra to really allow oneself to let go and relax completely, I found that mantra-repetition could also be used to direct and control the mind in a more active and deliberately focused manner. This is more in line with yoga as taught in the tradition of Patanjali. The aim here is the sharp one-pointedness of mind which prevents the scattering of thoughts in all directions and keeps the mind from going outwards through the senses. It seems to me that it really is this rapid movement of the mind, constantly going back and forth between the falsely perceived separateness of oneself and the equally false “outer world,” that is one of the main obstacles to just calmly resting in the unity of world and self.
Technically, what seems to happen is that the focusing of thought focuses energy and this usually leads to an increased flow of kundalini along the spine. When this burst of energy reaches the highest region of the brain, shifts in consciousness occur, spiritual insights come drifting into awareness automatically and there can be general feelings of being in tune with the All and Everything.
For this slightly different way of repeating, I try to focus with as much attention as I can on the sound and the shape of the mantra until it gradually fills out the whole space of the mind . I’ve often also done this walking outside with eyes open until sometimes the boundaries between inner world of thought and feeling and outer world of objects have more or less vanished and everything is just felt to be one big continuum with different degrees of density. If the focus is strong enough, it’s as if the whole outer universe becomes filled with the sound of the mantra as well and it can then seem as if the cosmos begins to chant back, which is quite nice.
Mantras and Side-Effects
Other interesting and spiritually useful side-effects of doing mantras over time, is that one develops an increased awareness of the shape and direction thoughts take and it becomes much easier to voluntarily direct the mind and consciously choose which thoughts to follow and which are best left to fade away by themselves. Since I firmly believe that thought determines action and ultimately the realities and life circumstances we find ourselves in, this aspect of mantra-practice is probably quite powerful, in terms of shaping the future and destiny.
A third approach to mantra-recitation that I’ve used with some results is more in line with tantric teachings which focus on the harmonising and control of the different chakras or areas of consciousness. This is also done in order to understand and streamline the physical and mental aspects of life, which manifest through the lower chakras. Mind and body in essence seem to be permutations and combinations of the 5 basic elements – ether or the space in which manifestation takes place, air, fire, water and then earth as the solid end-result. In tantra-speak all this is the Shakti side of the great universal polarity and is ruled by the kundalini. In order to experience Shiva, the silently witnessing consciousness, or the real, permanent “I” of non-duality, kundalini needs to be moved out from the lower chakras and made to unite with top area of the brain. Before that can happen in a steady and permanent manner, the chakras or in essence the elements they represent, need to be purified and strengthened. In practice, I find this to be quite demanding to say the least, but this is probably mainly due to my own shortcomings!
Mantra and Tantra
In the tantric traditions mantras have been used for this purification and as far as my humble experimentation has allowed me to see, the ancient yogis very much knew what they were doing. Reciting the mantra “Lam” at the end of the spine for instance, strengthens, energizes, opens and expands the root-chakra. Now, why is this so, why “Lam” and not any other sound ? I don’t know, but for me, taking the pragmatic approach of “if it works, use it” is the best one. Traditionally, the explanation given is that the ancient seers and rishis were given the various mantras in direct communion with the Infinite and I can go along with that. One day the science of physics will probably find out that the universe really is sound in motion and that different densities of matter correspond to different frequencies of sound. Humans, being part of the universe, will then correspondingly be found to also consist of various frequencies of sound and I believe great advances in the healing sciences will be made because of these discoveries.So, essentially, mantras can be seen to be a method of tuning the mind, body and awareness, harmonising frequencies, directing consciousness towards the light, instead of letting it scatter.
May all beings find peace and happiness.
About the Author:
Michael Hortling is currently residing in Germany. He combines mantra yoga practice with playing the guitar and creating music. As a youngster, he had a mystical experience while watching the Aurora Borealis drape itself across the Northern sky and this may have caused his energies to be like the Aurora, flowing, generously gentle and glowing brightly.
The following seed mantras are taken from the classic texts and schools of Kundalini Yoga based in Hinduism. The mantras used in Jainism and Buddhism are somewhat different. Traditionally, Kundalini Yoga in India was only practiced under the guidance of a Kundalini adept. The same advice holds today. Having a good teacher is essential in avoiding mental and physical challenges that may come with the practice of Kundalini Yoga.
LAM – the root (lessons related to the material world)
VAM – the belly (lessons related to sexuality, work and physical desire)
RAM – the solar plexus (lessons related to ego, personality, self-esteem)
YAM – the heart (lessons related to love, forgiveness and compassion)
HAM – the throat (lessons related to will and self expression)
OM – the brow (lessons related to mind, intuition, insight and wisdom)
All Sound – the crown (lessons related to spirituality) this is your quiet and all sounds around you. The sound of your being….