Shared Transformation Issue 4
Prior to 1991, I'd believed that only devout spiritual adepts who followed rigorous disciplines
could have Kundalini awakenings. I had imagined that this harrowing but ultimately benevolent process
was the reward of unremitting and recognizable spiritual effort.
When my own Kundalini arose, this and many more of my long held assumptions were blown to
pieces. I began meeting others who were in the midst of dramatic Kundalini awakenings. Not one of these
people fit "the profile" before their awakening. We had all been highly sensitive people; most of us had
experienced some degree of psychic awareness earlier in our lives. We'd all had a hunger for communion
with life/God/others and a desire to learn about the mysterious and magical side of existence which
surpassed what we knew of our mainstream peers. Here the similarities between us ended.
Our personal backgrounds, ages, race, gender and lifestyles were diverse. Some of us had previous
exposure and/or interest in Eastern religious practices, such as yoga, meditation and spiritual studies. Some
had adhered to Judeo/Christian beliefs, others were involved in New Age systems. While some had
experimented heavily with mind-altering drugs, others had little or no drug experience.
Apparently, whatever our numbers, those of us in radical transformation are everywhere. We
occupy every strata of society. This has been one of the greatest obstacles to distributing this newsletter: we
want to make Shared Transformation available to all who need it, but those of us undergoing profound
psychospiritual processes are comparatively few and far flung. We can't be found on any mailing list or in
any specific interest group or community. There is no telling just how many of us there are, or where we
I'd imagined that there would be more of us found in places like imported Eastern religious centers,
especially those whose teachings center on the raising of the Kundalini. To my astonishment, I discovered
this was untrue. At one point in my own awakening, I called such a local ashram for a referral to a dentist
who could deal with my involuntary mudras and kriyas. Those at the center told me they didn't give
referrals; furthermore, they did not know of anyone locally -- devotee or otherwise -- who had actually had a
Most of these Eastern religions teach that Kundalini is awakened through the guru -- usually by a
transmission of spiritual energy known as "shaktipat." A few of those I know in transformational processes
had received shaktipat from such gurus -- often decades prior to their awakening. Was this a factor? None
of us knew exactly what "set off" our Kundalini awakenings. In several cases, traumatic events such as the
death of a loved one or a physical accident seemed to precede the most severe Kundalini symptoms. In
other cases, like my own, there was no evident external trigger.
Nor do we all experience psychospiritual crisis in the same way. For some, the process begins
with a sublime mystical revelation. For others, it is not until relatively late in the process that mystical and
paranormal events occur. For many, the initial stages bring extreme physical, mental or emotional distress.
Even the length of the process has great variation. For some, it may last a few days or weeks. For others, it
goes on unabated for many years. Even those with shorter experiences may find that such brief but intense
episodes recur in their lives during a five to twenty year period.
Those who have had relatively short and easy (and often partial) awakenings frequently make the
false assumption that everyone's process should conclude quickly. There is a strong, unfortunate tendency
to believe that the way one's own unfolding occurred is precisely the way it must be for everyone else. Such
narcissistic thinking leads to all sorts of useless criticism, erroneous judgment and poor advice.
Everyone I know who has undergone a prolonged Kundalini awakening has been told by at least
one professed "expert" that he or she was definitely not experiencing Kundalini. People who have never
themselves had any sort of transformational experience are often more eager and arrogant in spelling out
what is a "real" process than those who have actually gone through it themselves. In addition to all the
confusing mixed messages we receive from others, we often have our own internalized prejudices that add
to our doubt. In my own case, I had a hard time feeling worthy of my awakening, because I didn't feel that I
was "advanced" enough to merit such a gift. Like many others, I had bought into the idea that only saints
experienced radical flowering of consciousness.
The following list is a barrage of common stereotypes that have been hurled at me and others I
know undergoing transformation:
1. Visualizing (or mental concentration) is sufficient (or always required) to rouse and safely direct the
movement of the Kundalini.
2. Only renunciates and those who live austerely make genuine spiritual progress.
3. Only those who regularly meditate, pray, or engage in devout religious practices have powerful
4. Unless one is serene, passionless, detached, and is in control of the mind and physical senses, one
cannot experience higher levels of consciousness.
5. Spiritual experiences are always uplifting, beautiful and welcome.
6. People whose consciousness is evolving are constantly "high" and radiant with happiness.
7. Other people can easily see there is something special and mystical about those who are having
8. Spiritual experiences are ethereal and only effect the soul -- they never involve the body or the
9. A true Kundalini awakening occurs as an instantaneous flash of total enlightenment.
10. Only five people in history of the world (or some infinitesimal number) really have a risen Kundalini.
11. Those who undergo transformational processes are superior to other people.
All of these assumptions are simply untrue. Those who have transformational experiences don't
fit into any one mold or myth. "Decadent" bleached blondes with flashy wardrobes and lots of makeup are
no less likely to undergo spiritual awakening than neo-Amish type virgins. Those who meticulously follow
ordained spiritual practices appear to have no advantage over those who adhere to no specific regime. Even
spiritual aspirants and faithful believers aren't exclusive prospects; atheists and agnostics can and DO have
profound psychospiritual experiences.
These facts elicit shock and outrage from those who have presumed that only seekers in the right
wrappings are recipients of divine grace. Those who consider themselves (and their own stereotypes)
"spiritually correct" are often more antagonistic toward spiritual emergence in anyone who doesn't fit the
bill than are the hard-core materialists and skeptics who disdain anything spiritual. Those who have spent
their lives in pursuit of dogmatic spiritual perfection are also most likely to try to commandeer someone
else's process, giving irrelevant instructions and unnecessary dire warnings.
The prevailing but mistaken belief that spirituality is always a positive and uplifting experience
does untold harm to those of us enduring the very real agonies of spiritual evolution. Doctors with little or
no experience with violent Kundalini awakenings insist that we are suffering from "religious delusions" and
try to pigeonhole us with demoralizing psychiatric labels. Yet anyone familiar with the psychospiritual
histories of the most beloved and renowned spiritual luminaries of our time (Krishnamurti, Swami
Muktananda, Ram Dass, etc.) realizes that severe physical and mental disturbances are a commonly
reported part of the transformational process.
The idea that a Kundalini awakening is supposed to be a carefully controlled spiritual exercise
arises primarily from the yogic literature which promotes self-induced (and nearly impossible to achieve)
awakening. Those of us who are undergoing spontaneous emergence know that the process has a life of its
own. This doesn't mean that it has gone amuck! The majority of the most vital processes in our lives are
not ego-controlled (i.e., digestion, respiration, blood circulation, bodily chemistry, etc.), yet we do not find
anything objectionable in this. Why, then, do we demand that the far more mysterious superconscious
processes conform to our limited ideas of what is healthy and productive? Physical or psychological pain
are not irrefutable evidence that something has gone wrong. Childbirth is often very painful; infants suffer
pain in teething; hormonal changes during puberty and menopause can be physically and emotionally
uncomfortable. Yet all of these are natural and necessary processes.
While other people's judgments can be punitive, the most formidable stereotypes are those we
hold against ourselves! Our images of who we "should" be or what is "true" begin to crumble as we
spiritually expand. For some, the realization that something greater than materialist science and human
ingenuity are at work here can be shattering. New realities that break through as consciousness unfurls can
be disturbing and bewildering. It can be hard to integrate spontaneous insights and mystical experiences
that have no place in one's previously accepted reality model .
There can also be vacillations in our personal needs and desires which alarm us. At certain
points in the process, those who have been health-conscious or vegetarians find themselves craving "taboo"
foods, such as sweets and meat. People who have been selfless and giving find themselves needing to
withdraw and say no to other people's demands. Those who have embraced celibacy or sexual moderation
are horrified to discover their passions smouldering. These and many other changes in the transformational
process can be a torturous inner war if we cling to stereotypes of what is absolutely right, good, or pure. If
we think anger is un-spiritual, we'll be mortified when we go through episodes of emotional catharsis. If we
have deified certain foods, we'll feel guilty and miserable when our bodies demand that we eat differently.
If we have disowned or repressed any part of ourselves, the transformational process is sure to bring these
parts back with a vengeance. The more we try to push these "wrong" parts away, the more painful our
Even improvements in our lives can be unsettling at first. Alan Arkin describes how he reacted
when he discovered one morning that his habitual, compulsive and frenetic pattern had dissolved: "After a
couple of minutes, when nothing locked into place as an urgent demand, a must do, my reaction was one of
terror... Half a dozen things were equally balanced. And this ability to choose, calmly and in an orderly
way, threw me into a panic." (Halfway Through the Door)
For those who have tried to be "good" people, by whatever standard, the most devastating part of
the process may come when the "goodness" is stripped away. I don't believe this happens simply to expose
our hidden evil. It's also a dissolution of attachments which are blocking our awareness. It's relatively easy
to see the benefit of letting go of greed, malice, deceit, and other negative modes. It's harder to recognize
that our ideals and lofty expectations are equal entrapments which bar us from the truth. All the
stereotypes, even the beautiful ones, ultimately cripple us. Every preconception limits awareness. If any
generalization can be made about spiritual evolution, it is this: It's never quite what we expected it to be.
-- El Collie
© El Collie 1995