Kundalini awakening, whether it occurs within a traditional spiritual discipline or spontaneously, brings challenges for many people. It is as if your system has been amped up from 110 to 220 wiring and you, as the appliance, have not yet adapted to it. It is exceedingly rare for an awakening to be complete before many months and years of clearing have occurred.
This energy of life force has a goal of bringing you to a complete rest in the universal Self, or the Non-self (not a personal self), or what has been called the peace that passes understanding. One scripture describes Kundalini as a goddess (also called Shakti) who awakens and rushes through the body through the crown of the head to merge with her lover, the God Shiva, representing pure universal consciousness.
As this journey happens the self-identifications, beliefs and illusions related to the existing personality are undermined and eventually dissolve. You may feel you no longer have a place to stand in the world. You are moving toward standing in the vastness of the whole.
This clearing has been called a purification process, or in Hindu terms it is the release of samscaras and vrittis. Samscaras are all the conditions brought into this unique life to be played out from previous lives, but could also be considered the consequence of effects in the present life. Vrittis are all the movements of mind and thought. Many spiritual practices exist for the purpose of calming and overcoming the activity of vrittis.
Because we are spirit imbedded in a physical body all of the cells of our bodies are like parts of a hologram, containing the memories of whatever has happened to us. So it happens that as the energies that hope to transform us move through the body those areas where energy, pain, memory or contractions are stored will react. This is what we are feeling when there are pains, jerking movements, heat, vibrations, rushes and other phenomena during and following a kundalini arising. Many people have associated some of these movements with opening the chakras, which is another model for saying that as contraction releases new possibilities emerge.
People carry their pain in different ways, just as we live our lives in different ways, and so there can be a wide variety of responses to this movement of energy, or clearing process. If there are physical problems from an old injury it may be especially sensitive. If our diet has been unhealthy or our lifestyle causes us to live where there is toxic emotional energy, this can leave us more vulnerable to difficulties. If there has been abuse of any kind, or there is a history of alcoholism or drug-use, the body may be especially challenged by this awakening, which is trying to clear it of the past memories and experiences that we are identified with. If there is a tendency of the personality to contract and a strong desire for control the process can be very difficult because of our resistance to it.
For these and other reasons these are a few guidelines that can help you move through this experience and find inner peace.
1. The energy may feel coarse and intense at times. But it is rarely painful. Usually it is the fear and the attempt to stop it that causes pain. If you are having lots of body movement, lay down once or twice a day on the bed, and invite the energy to move through you and clear out whatever doesn't belong to you, and whatever is in your best interest to release at that moment. Usually it will run for a few minutes — maybe up to 20 — and then stop, and you will feel more relaxed. You especially need to do this if you work in an environment where you may be picking up negative energy or the pain of others such as healing or therapeutic work, or in places where there is a lot of alcohol use, or in hospitals. If you are having persistent physical pain in this process you should have a medical evaluation.
2. Discover what your body really wants to eat. Often people need to make major dietary changes such as giving up alcohol and recreational drug use, avoiding red meat, eating smaller and more simple meals. If you have a persistent problem with energy that is too intense do detective work to see what might be triggering the problem. How long since you ate and what did you eat? Would a small piece of bread or some protein calm it down? Perhaps chamomile or burdock root tea? To calm energy and heat yogis sometimes recommend a drink of warm milk, with ghee (clarified butter) and sugar (not honey, which raises heat). Often stress and emotional issues make the energy overly strong, as it is trying to release all stressors from the body.
Another option is to have a good analysis done with an Ayurvedic practitioner, who can assess your body type and balance, and recommend the optimal diet and herbs for you. There is much variation in dietary needs, and sometimes people have long periods with no appetite at all, or long periods with a voracious appetite. Usually a diet focused on rice and vegetables is most useful, but proteins are also important. I tend not to eat much meat so I take a powdered protein and mineral supplement in juice every day and it makes a great difference in how I feel. Be good to yourself.
3. Focus more in the heart and the belly than in the head. Look for practices that center you more deeply into the present moment. A devotional practice such as chanting or doing a heart-centered meditation can help the energy open you to an experience of the deeper part of yourself, the eternal part. Moving outward into more loving connections with others, possibly trying simple volunteer work with nature or animal, may help the awakening become more balanced. Some have found it comforting to invite the presence of a divine image as an ally at this time (i.e. a god, goddess, spiritual teacher, saint, symbol). Others imagine light surrounding them. Kundalini has been imaged as a Goddess in India, and some people report success in speaking to her and asking her to ease the experience. These are powerful archetypal energies that help the psyche when it is moving through challenging changes.
4. Do something to help your body be more open such as yoga, Tai Chi, dance, acupressure, movement processes, long walks in nature, or whatever you are drawn to. If you don't know what is best for you try several things and stick with what feels the best. The physical body is the vehicle that will carry and ground your spirit, your awakening, in the end. No matter how deep your realization you will ultimately be living in a human body for a few more years. The better it is cared for, the more options you have to express realization when it occurs.
Of course, a person who is weak or dying can also be a beautiful and complete expression of the Divine, and poor health does not preclude enlightenment. Those who have sat with people who are dying have seen that as attachment to the body lets go more and more light shines through. But this should not be misconstrued to advocate a harsh asceticism. While we are living, having an open and flexible body accomplishes the same thing with a lot less pain and distraction. Making the body "disciplined" by over-doing exercise is not of any use either. Find a middle way, where your body is in harmony with your spirit.
5. Wake up each day expecting not to know what will happen, and looking with curiosity for the events to unfold. Instead of worrying and controlling, simply be present to whatever arises with the intention of meeting it with your best effort. Whatever happens in the process of spiritual awakening will be unpredictable and will move on, if you are simply the one noticing it, and not doing battle or making a big project out of it.
6. You may have emotional swings, energetic swings, psychic openings, and other undesired shifts that feel unfamiliar to your personality as you knew it. Be the observer. Don't feel you have to fix or change anything. It will pass.
7. If you have serious trauma in your history and have never had therapy it could be very useful in releasing the pains of the memories that come up around the events. I have noticed that people who had good therapy before their spiritual awakenings often have much less difficulty. Therapy teaches you to express, to witness, to release and to move on. Your therapist does not have to know much about kundalini as long as he or she does not discount that part of your process. What you want to focus on is releasing issues related to the trauma, and you want a therapist that is experienced and compassionate and sees your spiritual orientation as a motivation and a support for the process of healing.
8. This process is your opportunity to wake up to your true nature. Some people wake up first, and then experience a kundalini arising; others have the kundalini process moving through as a preparation for the arising. The arising occurs to do the clearing out work so is part of either model. Waking up means the realization that the one who is looking through your eyes, living through your senses, hearing your thoughts and being present in every moment of your experience, good or bad, is recognized or remembered. This is a bright, aware, detached and unconditionally loving presence that is universal and eternal and it is completely free of all the conditions and memories that you associate with as a personal identity. But as long as you believe in all your personal conditions and stories, emotions and thoughts, it has to experience life filtered through them. This conditioned mind is what brings variety and drama to the game of life, but it also causes suffering and fear of death. We glimpse the Truth about the deep expansive silence that is the ground of our being when we are in Samadhi and Satori experiences. The early Gnostics called it gnosis (knowledge) or the One.
Some spiritual teachings such as Advaita Vedanta and Zen go directly for the realization, while others see it as a gradual path accomplished through years of spiritual practices. Either way the end is the same. When you know who you are the world becomes as Shakespeare said, a stage, and you the player, and life is more light and thoughts less intrusive, and the kundalini process settles down into a mellow pleasantness.
9. Give up going places and being with people who cause you pain. Sometimes people seem to be more acutely sensitive when kundalini arises. They can't tolerate the energy of large discount warehouses, or smoky nightclubs, or the kind of family gatherings that are tense and competitive. It's okay to take care of yourself and find more quiet time, more intimate friends, and even a new job, if the old one is overly stressful. Don't feel you have to prove anything by forcing yourself to be someone you aren't. Rediscover what is comfortable naturally for you to do and to be. Live more authentically. In this process you may also find a new creative urge, which is a wonderful opportunity to express what is happening. Draw, write, dance, work with clay, paint, garden — all of these are great ways of nurturing yourself through the deep psychic changes you are experiencing.
10. Find an awakened teacher to hang out with. For many people with spiritual awakenings meditation is an intrinsic part of their lives. An awakened teacher will bring you a transmission of peace, and an opportunity to sit deeply in the silence of your true nature. An awakened teacher can be of any spiritual persuasion or none, can understand kundalini or not be interested in it, and will demonstrate tolerance and compassion for all who pass their way. When you learn from them the art of sitting and just being, you will find the cure for all the suffering of life. In time all the activity of the mind and complaints of the body fall away, and there is a deep understanding and love that arises, which brings a sense of completion, openness, freshness and invitation to the expression of the greater Self. When awakening is complete, there is no question it has been the whole purpose of your life. Where it will take you there is no way to know, and there is no one to care either. We surrender to the dance, knowing it is a dream.