The Eruption of Kundalini-Shakti: By Michael Hortling

(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.

Doing Mantras

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.

Seed Mantras

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….

What Is Meditation? By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

The Art Of Doing Nothing

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My Dear Friends,

You have heard many things about meditation and perhaps there are questions in your mind about it. Today, there is no shortage of information on any topic having to do with meditation and yoga. There are literally thousands of books on meditation and yoga and self-help techniques. If you go on the Internet and put in a few key words, you will come across many views on meditation.

Some people equate repeating a mantra with meditation. Others say that if you focus on the in-going and out-going breath, that is meditation. There are people who believe that you must be able to sit cross-legged in the lotus position with a straight spine in order to meditate effectively.

Having meditated since early childhood, I can assure you that this is not true. Inviting aches and pains by sitting in a lotus position will not lead to a peaceful mind. Meditation, after all, is about relaxation and peace. Having peace, or recognizing the peace within, is meditation. What takes us away from being peaceful cannot be meditation. Whatever brings us peace is meditation.

Avoidance Of Stillness

It is my experience that people like to keep busy. In today’s world, being busy is considered a very high virtue. We want to keep busy and be productive in some way. Otherwise, we feel we are wasting time and feel guilty. Certainly, being active is a good thing and allows us to make a living and maintain relationships in the world.

Even Sri Krishna says to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita that one cannot avoid action. One is compelled to act according to one’s nature under the force of circumstances. That is the universal law of Karma.

But we have to understand the nature of action and our relationship to it. This is why Sri Krishna advises Arjuna to act according to his duty and dharma but without any expectation for any fruits of action. Our expectations undermine our peace when they do not come to fruition. Right conduct, according to one’s best understanding and judgement, brings peace. Therefore, it brings us to meditation.

Mental Experiments

Ancient Yogic and Advaitic sages gave methods and taught us to conduct mental experiments to find the nature of truth. These mental experiments can indirectly help us recognize the Pure Being within our center as our own Heart.

The techniques of meditation, such as mantra, chanting, yoga, pranayama, breath-awareness, etc., are simply mental and physical experiments. These practices start us on a journey with the potential for personal and spiritual growth.

However, real meditation is beyond visionary experiences and is the discovery of peace within. To reach there, we have to be quiet and learn the art of stillness. Once we know how to be still while doing nothing, we can carry this stillness into our actions as well. But first, we must discover the nature of this inner peace; and to do that we have to learn the art of doing nothing.

Are You Able To Do Nothing?

Are you able to do nothing? Absolutely nothing! The art of meditation is learned by seeing the value of doing nothing. If you can sit very still and quiet without mental disturbance, you have already come a long way towards the experience of meditation.

It is only a rare person that enjoys doing nothing. Doing nothing is not as easy as it may sound. Try it sometimes. Just sit on the sofa. Don’t go to sleep. Stay awake and think about nothing in particular.

You will soon find your mind racing here and there, thinking about your girl friend, your boy friend, your boss, your co-workers, your business, your friends, your family, tofu, pizza, chocolate… the sky is the limit!

The Mind Is A Monkey And A Donkey!

Yogic sages have compared the human mind to a monkey. Just like the monkey cannot be quiet and must be restlessly hopping here and there, so it is with the mind. It is the nature of the mind to be either brooding about the past (regrets, mistakes, guilt, lost opportunities, the roads not taken) or fantasizing about what the future will bring.

The burden of carrying the past and the future in this present moment is heavy. But the mind, like a donkey, gets used to carrying this load and plods along.

However, the mind that is always lost in memories (past) or hopes (the future) misses the most delicious feast of all that is taking place in the present.

The eternal reality, we can call it Self, Sat-Chit-Anand, God, the Supreme Being, the Supreme Goddess, Paramatman, Brahman, the Great Void, or the Kingdom of Heaven, always exists and is shining in the present right before our very eyes.

The Divine mystery is recognized when the mind is calm and awake and free from anger, hatred, and greed and thus not subjected to the pulls of the past and the future. This is why all major religions encourage human beings to be good and kind and compassionate. These virtues serve as the building blocks for the spiritual life because they remove the agitation of the mind.

Why Meditation Techniques Do Not Always Work

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Meditation techniques are fully effective only in a mind that already has some understanding and maturity. So really, laying the foundation or the groundwork for meditation is more important than the practice of meditation. Just like a seed grows naturally on fertile ground, meditation happens spontaneously in a reflective and a quiet mind.

When the mind is ready and ripe, meditation works and self-inquiry is fruitful in a short time.

When the mind is restless, anxious, and troubled, meditation becomes a forced activity and is not always helpful. At such times, one should take a walk, practice deep breathing, or go for running or do push-ups and other exercises. Those are more useful than meditation when the mind is not ready to be calm.

Pranayama, involving deep rhythmic breathing, is an ancient yogic method that can serve to calm and sedate the mind in a natural way. According to Hatha Yoga Pradipika and other classic yogic texts, one first has to master proper breathing in order to progress to meditation. This is the commonly held belief in the school of Hatha Yoga. However, the path of Jnana Yoga does not emphasize breathing exercises or Hatha Yoga Mudras and Kriyas and considers these to be irrelevant to Self-Knowledge.

Advanced Pranayama practices involving breath retention or awakening of Kundalini Shakti can be found in many yogic texts and modern books. However, these should be learned very cautiously from an experienced practitioner of pranayama.

Laying The Foundation For Meditation

In order to advance in meditation and learn it in depth, we have to understand the nature of the mind and learn to be alert and watchful of its activities. It is this constant watching, that is the key method behind all the techniques of meditation. A form of this is what Buddhist calls, “Mindfulness”. Jains call it Upa Yoga (Yoga of Awareness), Hindus refer to it as the “Inquiry into the Self” or Self-Remembrance.

A spiritual seeker is watchful.

The essence of this watchfulness is that with the mind one watches the mind.

If meditation is going to take place, if this recognition of Pure Being with clarity is to be gained, an inner silence must ensue. One cannot see one’s image clearly in the water, when the water is full of waves. In a still pool, our image is reflected and can easily be recognized. Similarly, in a still mind, we can see the nature of our being.

This inner watchfulness, the observer being aware of the observer, this self-inquiry can occur in a ripe mind that is calm, content, and ready.

We Are Dancing For Others!

The difficulty is that our minds are noisy. This is the nature of the mind that goes outward only. It is overcome by sensory experiences and is unable to see its origin. The worldly chatter overshadows and muffles the subtle divine music that is playing.

Friends, sometimes I think, we are dancing to the drum of other people’s expectations, which we have internalized.

There is no end to this dance. This dance has a stronger hold on us than rock and roll or disco or rap music. It keeps us hopping all our life doing this and doing that or achieving this and achieving that. Ultimately, it is exhausting.

Whole world guru

 

The whole life slips away in the blink of an eye as we keep busy in “doing” this dance making sure that the movement of our steps have the approval of others. We forget to “Be” who we are.

To Be Still is the true meditation. Meditation is simply Pure Being.

The art of recognizing yourself as Pure Being is meditation. Pure Being is Self-Awareness or Awareness.

A Powerful Intervention: Conduct This Experiment

The state of meditation is simple. The methods and techniques and the philosophy behind it are very complicated. That is why thousands of books are written on such things. But the aim of meditation is simply peace. Peaceful Awareness. Meditation is easy to understand. It is being peaceful without expectations.

Conduct the following experiment with being peaceful without expectations. Tell yourself this: “For the next one minute, I am not going to worry about anything and be bothered.”

Try to be free of all inner and outer conflicts for one minute. Give yourself this one minute as a holiday gift!

This is a powerful intervention. Can you be free from inner conflict for one minute? See what hinders your attitude to be worry free for one minute. If you can be peaceful and free from anxiety for one minute then you can do it for two minutes and then more.

To Be With Yourself

So dear friends, find some time to simply “Be” with yourself. To just “Be” is an amazing experience of the present moment. See what thoughts come to your mind. When you sit quietly, many visual images and thought patterns start emerging from the subconscious. This is referred to as “Surfacing” and it happens when your relax and your mind is at ease and free of tension.

If you remain awake and pay attention, you can gain insight into your own mind. These insights will teach you to not attach yourself to things that do not bring you peace. You will come to see that your nature is that of Pure Being which is associated with the many thoughts in your mind and yet is independent of these.

Sri Ramana Maharshi, the great Indian Sage of Arunachala, gave forth this method of reflective Self-Inquiry, that focuses on the question, “Who Am I?”

This investigation, when done with understanding and sincerity, brings us to the state of Being that is free from thoughts. This inquiry is really at the heart of the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta.

Always Be Gentle With Yourself

If you are not able to sit quietly right away and be completely still for even one minute, do not worry about it at all. The reason it is difficult for us to sit quietly and do nothing is because often there are wounds inside which we would rather not become aware of or deal with.

The process of living life can be very very painful and stressful. Over the years, we put temporary bandages on our hurtful experiences, which for a short time dull the pain.

My teacher Chitrabhanu-Ji taught me that when we try to relax and meditate, our anxieties and fears and past suffering sometimes bubble up from the unconscious. So we have to be alert and to accept and let these things go so we can renew ourselves and be fresh.

The ancient Yogic Sages of thousands of years ago left us with great works on the nature of human suffering and how to alleviate it. Sometimes when I read the Bhagavad Gita or Patanjali’s yoga sutras, Tao Te Ching, Buddha’s path or Mahavir’s philosophy of reverence for life and Ahimsa, I marvel at the depth of the insights contained in these.

The great Yogis of the past 5000 years have been really great psychologists who knew the nature of the human condition. They deeply understood what happens when spiritual seekers try to get insights into their mind and provided a path and guidance on how to walk it with the help of teachers and fellow students.

The Notion Of The Sangha

In India, some people meditate in Ashrams or in communities. The notion of a Sangha (community of spiritual seekers) is important. In such a community, meditation is easier, because people are able to encourage each other and share each other’s pain and burdens. When our mental or physical suffering is intense, we are not able to meditate. People turn to alcohol or drugs to numb themselves so that they do not feel their own suffering. This, however, cannot lead to any permanent solution and satisfaction. Indeed, it can weaken the body and the mind and makes matters worse.

Being part of a vibrant spiritual community, or to just be in the company of good people who care about one another, can exercise a protective influence on you.

As a general rule, in order to advance in meditation, you should keep the company of good people who allow you to be who you are.

I studied with Chitrabhanu-Ji who is one of the key figures in 20th and 21st century Jainism. Chitrabhanu-Ji, before he became a Jain monk, was part of Mahatma Gandhi’s movement to free India from the British through the peaceful means of Ahimsa (Nonviolence).

Ahimsa is the cardinal principle in Jainism. Chitrabhanu-Ji taught me that a mind becomes fully fit for meditation and Self-Realization through the practice of reverence for all life and amity towards all beings.

A genuine spiritual community has to be completely dedicated to the principle of Ahimsa in thought and action and be committed to alleviating suffering among all living beings. A teacher or a guru who does not understand or practice the principle of Ahimsa and is abusive to his or her students should be avoided. Such people are on power trips only and have their own problems to deal with.

 

Having A Personal Philosophy

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It is good to become aware of and think about fundamental life issues at any age, but particularly so if you are young. It allows one to develop a personal philosophy that helps to structure and interpret different experiences and put things into their proper perspective.

It is important to sit quietly and spend time with yourself in order to have an understanding of your own nature. Whatever philosophy one adopts, the following general rules are helpful in remaining calm and healthy.

Ten Tips From Yogic Texts And Sages

1. Eat nutritious foods that suit your constitution in moderate quantities (My New Year’s Resolution!)

2. Walk every day if possible (My Second New Year’s Resolution!).

3. Avoid people who are manipulative, loud, obnoxious, and destructive if at all possible.

4. Keep company of people who are pleasant, easy going, cheerful, and supportive.

5. Remain silent when you have the urge to be sarcastic or make fun of someone.

6. Help people who are in need within your capacity.

7. Take the time to be alone everyday and be with yourself.

8. Never give into peer pressure to drink or do drugs or go to wild parties (Tame and sober get together with good friends and Satsang with fun singing and chanting is OK!).

9. Develop confidence in your own ability to do what you need to do.

10. Engage in introspection at the end of the day. Mentally wishing everyone well, always go to bed with a clean slate.

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Even A Little Effort Helps!

Friends, even a little right effort is never wasted. Every journey must start with the first step. The journey that takes you inside your own Self is the most wondrous journey you can ever take as it reveals the mystery of existence itself. Start from this very moment and enjoy the wonders of your own nature and the sparkling reality that has been smiling and shining on you for the whole of eternity.

Chin Mudra - Jnana Mudra

Kundalini Shakti in the West: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

The notion of Kundalini Shakti is at the heart of yoga and is embedded in virtually all Eastern traditions regardless of the name or label that is given. If we carefully examine any school of yoga, tantra, or various traditions (Shakti, Shaivite, Kashmiri Shaivism), there will usually be some descriptions of Hatha Yoga, Pranayama, Kriyas, Mudras, Mantras, and different types of meditations on the Chakras (energy centers).

In the Shakti traditions, detailed descriptions are given of the various aspects of the visions of the Goddess that arise in meditation. Even in the school of Advaita Vedanta, which does not depend on the practices associated with Shakti Yoga, we see that the great scholar/saint Adi Shankracharya has written hymns to the Goddess who represents Shakti, the divine power.

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