(This will probably be my last post in the ‘Kundalini Experiences’ series and I’m afraid it has become quite lengthy as I tried to squeeze in a lot of different content in one single post)
In our everyday lives we are juggling between awareness on many different levels simultaneously. I’ve met people in dental clinics, who complain that their tooth is aching so badly that they can’t think of anything else, except for the pain in their tooth. Consequently, the awareness of their body (or body parts) is so strong that even their mind is focused on a single target (i.e. their aching tooth)! Nevertheless, just a single shot of local anesthetic may be enough to cloud their awareness of body/body parts. Under an anesthesia, the same person may not even realize when the affected tooth was extracted, until the dentist shows them the extracted tooth.
We want to mask the awareness of body during meditation also but of course we don’t want to anesthetize our whole body just so we can meditate. However, these days, people are coming up with newer ideas to tackle that problem also. Some are very bad – like the misuse of drugs and some may actually be very beneficial like the sensory deprivation/isolation tank (about which I read in one of our fellow blogger’s recent post).
However, in a slightly different scenario, many patients become anxious on the sight of needle itself. They start demonstrating all types of physical symptoms of anxiety like – hyperventilation, trembling and dizziness etc. Here the source of anxiety is not the affected body part (i.e. the aching tooth) but the mind of that patient itself. Probably that person has a psychological fear of needles. In such cases we attempt to mask the mental awareness of that person by giving them a tranquilizer or an anxiolytic. As soon as the anxiolytic becomes effective the physical manifestations of anxiety (like tremors/trembling) subside too!
So we see that physical awareness and mental awareness are quite closely related – one affecting the other! It is also interesting to note that, very often, a still body will automatically lead to a still mind and the reverse is also true. This is why, in meditation we recommend sitting still in a particular pose. Consequently, Yoga is not just about physical exercises, but it is about creating a harmony between body and mind.
Ok, Still Body – Still Mind…You get it! …. But what about the soul?
Let’s consider another scenario…
You are not unconscious, you are not sleeping, and you are not drowsy. Instead, you are in a state of deep meditation. Imagine that in such a state you cannot feel your body and that your mind is calm to the extent of being nonexistent. You have no thoughts and you are in some sort of limbo where you’re aware that you are awake and alive, and yet the very act of noticing your breath/heartbeat gives rise to a thought – ‘I am breathing’, …..and this thought immediately brings your consciousness down to identification with your body and mind. You remind yourself that you should not be distracted by such thoughts during meditation and immediately your CONSCIOUSNESS identifies with your ‘INTELLECT’ which is reprimanding your ‘MIND’ not to pay attention to the breath passing in and out of your ‘BODY’.
This succession of identification of ‘self’ with ‘My’ Body, ‘My’ Mind, and ‘My’ Intellect happens so quickly, even in meditation, that going beyond the awareness of body, mind and intellect becomes an act of fine balance (for me, at least). However, I have experienced myself that a certain kind of awareness still exists even when the awareness of mind, body and intellect are dissolved. Actually, it is only when the awareness of mind, body and intellect dissolve into oblivion, that a new kind of awareness is revealed. For me, it’s an uncanny presence of simply ‘EXISTING’… the rest all is a big void or vacuum. As soon as, even a shred of thought enters that void ‘That’ other awareness hides behind the awareness of body, mind or intellect. ‘That’ other awareness is what I call the awareness of the ‘self’ or the ‘I’.
Ok, I’ve tried to explore the concept of ‘I’ awareness without using heavy intellectual arguments …. However, this is just what I have learnt and understood through my own experiences. I may be right, I may be wrong, but I feel that there is a different kind of awareness existing beyond that void also …it’s just that I haven’t moved past that ‘void’ yet. Quite understandably, my journey has only just begun and there’s a lot to discover about myself or the ‘I’ as yet!
Now, I could conclude this post here itself but there are certain aspects of Kundalini awakening and meditation that I want to address in this post itself (probably, because I can address these points under the headings of Physical Awareness, Mental Awareness, and Spiritual Awareness).
Lets’ begin by dealing with Kundalini Awakening experiences related to spontaneous Kriyas, Asanas, Bandhas, and Pranayams:
Spontaneous physical Kriyas, on a very basic level, may just be seen as movements or jerks in the body. I have already written somewhere else in this blog about witnessing such side-to-side movements in other people also, mostly while we were attending sankirtans or group chantings (which, by the way, are still prevalent in the Hindu society). Now, the question is – would you really consider such spontaneous movements of body as spontaneous kriyas? Let’s consider a more general example – Try Listening to a groovy song that you enjoy and in no time you might actually begin dancing or tapping your feet involuntarily. Let’s consider yet another example – If you have ever observed yourself or other students, trying to frantically memorize answers or a long passage, then you might have noticed that we tend to show to and fro body movements during intense mental pressure or we may even start pacing up and down the room. All such body movements are involuntary/spontaneous, yet the question is – can they be called as spontaneous Kriyas?
Well, the answer to the above questions is: Yes and No!
Spontaneous movements they are!… but not the spontaneous kriyas due to Kundalini Awakening or Pranotthana!
So, the question is – how do we differentiate between the common involuntary movements of body and the spontaneous kriyas arising due to Kundalini awakening?
To begin with, one doesn’t need to listen to any kind of music for such kriyas to happen. One doesn’t even have to think about a favorite song or rhythm in their minds (which could induce involuntarily movements in body). In fact, during spontaneous Kundalini Kriyas, the mind may be completely relaxed and still these movements may be occurring (whether or not one is listening to music). But a more confirmative indication is when such movements begin to occur after receiving a Shaktipat. In such cases these involuntary movements are actually the ‘spontaneous Kundalini Kriyas’ we are talking about!
Nevertheless, there are certain factors that influence or induce such involuntary body movements in absence of Kundalini activity, even after receiving a Shaktipat. One such factor is – ‘Peer Pressure’. You see other people shaking and trembling after receiving a Shaktipat while you are lying dead like an alligator. You wonder what’s wrong with you and then you decide to give your body a little push yourself. Soon, you adapt a rhythm and in no time you are shaking and rotating too….Lo and behold, you are doing spontaneous kriyas just like other Kundalini awakened people…We don’t want this to happen!
In reality, however, spontaneous kriyas are irrelevant to mental and physical factors (like Psychosis or drug – induced involuntary body movements). True Spontaneous Kriyas do not even require an intention or aspiration for such movements. They spontaneously occur whenever they are needed, with whatever intensity they are required, and for whatever duration they are deemed useful by the Kundalini. There is no need for personal effort! Furthermore, one can easily stop spontaneous Kundalini Kriyas through one’s own will or intention; ….although on some occasions such movements may be uncontrollable or difficult to stop.
A major significance of such spontaneous kundalini kriyas is that they isolate our physical awareness from the influences of our mind, will, or intellect! No one in their right mind would attempt to shake, rotate and cry during meditation and yet when these things happen without your intention or effort you begin to wonder if your body has a separate intelligence (different from your mind/brain).
However, it was only when I started performing complex asanas, bandhas, and pranayams spontaneously that I became more confident that such movements were actually Kundalini Kriyas and not some weird tricks played by my brain. Whatever remaining doubts I had about such kriyas were removed when I started performing the Uddiyan bandha spontaneously. The fact is – even now I cannot replicate the Uddiyan Badha voluntarily, the way it happens spontaneously. While trying to perform the Uddiyan Bandha voluntarily I need to pull my stomach in and up towards the chest, forcefully exhaling the air from my lungs out. However, when the Uddiyan bandha happens spontaneously, my stomach and diaphragm automatically get pulled inside and upwards, making a huge depression and arch below my chest. It seems like a wave of peristalsis (or a huge cramp, minus the pain) moves upwards from my stomach towards my nostrils, squeezing every bit of air from my lungs and trachea. Sometimes it felt like there was a huge invisible syringe placed outside my nose and that the syringe was sucking air out from my lungs, thereby pulling my stomach upwards in the process, by creating a vacuum. I know that my description may sound scary but it was always a very pleasant experience. The movements of muscles in my stomach and diaphragm were so smooth and rhythmic that I would be amazed to see them happen. I would often stay for a couple of minutes in that position (Uddiyan bandha, with the Jalandhar Bandha) with almost no air in my lungs and I enjoyed it so much!
Well, all these kriyas, Asanas, and Bandhas can be fun and fascinating for a while but eventually, in deeper meditation, there will come a phase where you may not be able to even feel your body. The fleshy and bony feel of your body that you may retain, even in a thoughtless condition, will eventually dissolve. In that state, instead of feeling localized into a fleshy body, extending about few feet from your yoga mat, you might get a feeling that your body has become almost amorphous, like vapor or thin air. However, instead of feeling the numbness and heaviness (that accompanies an anesthetic) you might feel light and expanded, almost like merging into the very air of the room you are sitting in. Eventually, there will be no body to identify with! Your body will not disappear or disintegrate…it’s just that the awareness of your body will be completely masked (even without an anesthetic).
This is probably what I mean when I say that in deeper meditation you will go beyond the awareness of your body.
So much for the physical awareness!
Lets’ move on to mental awareness…
A lot of meditation techniques encourage people to visualize being at a peaceful place or imagining a white light encapsulating their body or some other kind of visualizations. Even I was visualizing the image of Lord Hanuman, when I was meditating, the night I received Shaktipat. However, when I saw the ‘spontaneously formed’ image of my Guru overlapping my ‘consciously formed’ mental image of lord Hanuman it made the contrast between my mental imagery and Vision all the more clear. Nevertheless, I suspect that a lot of people, while saying that they saw such and such things during meditation, may actually be describing the vivid imagery that our (conscious or subconscious) mind involuntary creates when it is thinking about something or someone.
For example: Close your eyes and think about a car. Chances are that your mind will automatically create an image of a random car, probably with a certain color, …may be, even with a certain person sitting inside. Remember that I just asked you to think about a car but your brain added its own personal touch to the imagery which, by the way, I didn’t even ask you to create. Such is the habit of our mind – It is like a servant, who always likes to do much more than asked for!
Even while meditating, all we are mostly doing is struggling with our minds and thoughts. Sometimes during that struggle, our intellect becomes sleepy and our mind immediately takes over the control. From thinking about a car, to seeing a BMW parked in your garage, your mind may soon start showing you that your BMW has grown a pair of wings and you are flying over the streets of London, in that car.
If you think it’s a joke, then try meditating when you are feeling sleepy!
The point is – mental awareness is an important factor during meditation. It’s better to avoid meditating if you are already feeling drowsy. Try to remain mentally awake and try not to fall asleep while meditating. Remember that falling asleep is easier when you meditate in Shavasana. Therefore it is better if you meditate in a pose like Padmasana (lotus or half-lotus) or Siddhasana ! However, also, don’t confuse this with Yoga Nidra, which is a different state and may actually be helpful.
What I mean to say is that you are not supposed to let your imagination run amok while trying to meditate. You need to be aware of your mind and thoughts and after sometime that awareness of mind itself brings about your mind’s dissolution. If you stop letting your mind get carried away in thoughts they will eventually cease to appear. Instead of flowing away with your thoughts, let your thoughts flow away…like clouds in the sky. Without the thoughts your mind will become like a clear sky and the Sun (‘I’ awareness) which was previously hidden behind the clouds (thoughts) will reveal itself.
However, it certainly doesn’t mean that I am refuting the claims of seeing things during meditation altogether. What I mean to say is that when you do see ‘things’ in meditation they will usually be much clearer than the images your mind creates (voluntarily or involuntarily) through imagination. Visions (or what you see in meditation) may be actually as clear as the real thing, a movie, a picture, or a slide show you see with your open eyes or even as a dream that you see with your closed eyes. The only difference would be that – even though your eyes are closed, you will be fully awake mentally…meaning, you will not be imagining such images…they will tend to appear on their own. You can, however, choose to open your eyes, if you wish to stop seeing those images. But in some cases, I’ve read, saints have reported seeing such visions with open eyes too (I haven’t seen any vision with open eyes so far, but then, I’m also not a saint 🙂 ).
Ok, I will move on to the final segment of this post: Spiritual Awareness!
It is said that our body is just like a radio. It can catch a vast array of varying signals from our external environment, depending upon what frequencies it is tuned to. One can gain knowledge about events that have happened centuries ago; one can also gain knowledge about events that are yet to happen.
I still remember that incident when I received a particular intuition while I was attending a class during my post graduation. I was sitting with my group in the class, but all the time I was just staring blankly at my laptop. I didn’t pay the slightest attention to what my finance professor was teaching (and it was supposed to be a very important topic). My friends poked me a couple of times, asking me if I was alright and I straightforwardly said “no”. They ask me “what’s wrong?” and I say- “ I don’t know”. I felt something might be wrong back home but I didn’t have enough balance to make an international call from my college. I decided that in the afternoon break I will go out, recharge my phone and then call home. But, it so happened that my group needed to have a discussion about our presentation. We were discussing about certain things and I don’t know what happened but suddenly tears started rolling out from my eyes and one of my batch-mates immediately noticed it. He whispered “it isn’t absolutely necessary that you be here, you know”. He had seen me disturbed in the class too. But I said – “it’s nothing, just the glairiness of your laptop screen”. But then, around the same time my phone rang and I received a call from my brother-in-law telling me that I my father had met with an accident and my uncle has died!
There was another incident while I was preparing for my IELTS with my friend. We were solving some questions when suddenly my hand stopped in mid-air, holding the pencil. For a while my friend thought that I was thinking about the question but then he saw the blank look on my face. We decided to take a smoking break, and during that time I told him that something bad might happen to someone close to me. He asked me “who?” but as usual I didn’t know who it may be. So, I started giving calls to my sisters, and close friends casually inquiring if everything was ok with them and they were alright. My friend suggested that it might just be a bad thought but I told him that unless it was just a bad thought, I would probably hear something bad within the next 24 hours (that was the usual time period common in all my intuitions but lately I’ve been getting intuitions 7-10 days before the actual incidents). The next day I get a call from the same friend – He asks me: “did you hear any bad news?” I said “no, probably, it was just a bad thought” and then he slowly says, “I’ve just met with an accident”. I got alarmed and asked if he was ok and he tells me that his scooter was hit hard but thankfully he got away with just some scratches.
There are many other instances when I have received such intuitions, but we’ve already got the general idea covered. There seems to exist, a certain kind of awareness which is beyond our body and thoughts. This is the awareness of past, present, and future events, and something that we call intuition.
However, spiritual awareness is not just about intuition. I think it also encompasses vibrations of people and places too. For example: try meditating at a place where people already meditate regularly. Chances are that, at such places (or places like temples and churches) you will fall into a meditative state more easily compared to places like a pub (even when the pub is silent and deserted).
Apart from intuitions and vibrations, there was this particular activity during meditation called Kumbhak – You see, after I began performing the Uddiyan bandha spontaneously, another yogic phenomenon started making itself evident. As mentioned earlier, I would stay for a few minutes in a state where my lungs were almost completely devoid of air, my breathing stopped and with the uddiyan bandha and the Jalandhar bandha (the chin lock) firmly applied. Subsequently, over time, my normal rate of breathing gradually decreased to 4-6 breaths/minute in a normal relaxed & awake state and about 1-2 breaths/minute or even lesser during meditation. This holding of breath is called Kumbhaka and is of three types – The Outer kumbhaka, the Inner Kumbhaka, and the Kevala Kumbhaka.
During my meditation, I used to experience the Outer Kumbhaka more frequently where, after exhalation, my breath would remain spontaneously suspended outside my body (i.e. I wouldn’t be inhaling after I exhaled). That breathless state would somehow induce a state of mind where my mind would become totally blank and devoid of thoughts. However, there was no way I could calculate how long I would stay in that breathless – thoughtless state. The moment my attention would waver towards my breath a thought would arise that I am breathing and then it would no longer remain a thoughtless state.
Remaining in a complete thoughtless state required complete dissolution of physical and mental awareness. If I wanted to remain in a complete thoughtless state then I had to let go of the temptation of estimating how long my breath had been suspended ….so obviously I couldn’t accurately measure the duration of my breathless states. However, based on the previous disruptions in my thoughtless states, I had got an idea that I could remain in a thoughtless-breathless state for more than a couple of minutes, following which I would usually lose my balance and notice whether I have started breathing or not. Usually after noticing my breath I would usually start breathing automatically (even if it was suspended previously) and thus the thoughtless-breathless state would end in a few minutes.
However, during one particular session, even after 3-4 disruptions (which indicated that I had not breathed for a long time) my breathing still did not resume. I was not feeling a slightest shred of discomfort nor a desire to breathe. I was not in a thoughtless state, I was aware that I may not have breathed for a long time and yet I didn’t feel the need to! This was so strange and scary. My eyes were closed, it was completely dark, I was not breathing and suddenly I started feeling as if I was sinking in water. What’s strange is that along with that sinking feeling (together with slight swinging motions), I also felt the weightlessness one experiences in water, at the same time. These two contrasting feelings went on and on as if I was sinking in a deep abyss, even though the length from my head to the base of spine is just a few feet. This scared the hell out of me! I thought I was dying. I forcefully resumed my breathing (even though I didn’t feel the need to breathe) and opened my eyes … and everything was normal… I was alive.
But the question is – “who was alive – my body, my mind, my intellect or ‘something’ that existed even when my body, mind, and intellect were dissolved?”
The thing is – when the awareness of mind, body and intellect dissolve into oblivion a new kind of awareness is revealed and it is ‘that’ awareness which is the actual aim of my meditation. Interestingly that awareness is a kind of big black void where nothing else exists….No body consciousness, no mind, no thought, no intellect, no Nothing ….except for the uncanny presence of someone/something which is simply ‘watching’ or ‘existing’. It is that awareness which I yearn for when I sit for meditation (but I don’t get it very frequently).
Of course there may still be a different kind of awareness, beyond the void which I experience in deeper meditation, but as of now it is eluding me!
Om Namah Shivaya