I once knew a yoga teacher who would joke how awakening would never happen to her–she wasn’t far enough along the path, or didn’t know enough, or wasn’t enough.
She had this idea that awakening only happened to spiritually advanced people, or special people.
Yet, by all accounts, awakening can happen to anyone, anywhere, at anytime.
Why? Because awakening is nothing special. It is merely the shift from total identification with the mind–I am my thoughts–to an experience of awareness or the field of being in which those thoughts arise–I am thinking those thoughts (and they’re likely not true). Eventually, the ‘I’ that is thinking those thoughts also disappears, leaving only perception, or consciousness, behind.
So awakening is a shift of consciousness, often accompanied by energy experiences. Yogis refer to awakening as Kundalini Awakening, and it can be accompanied by all kinds of physical, emotional, mental and energetic phenomena–not all of which are pleasant.
Awakening, in varying degrees, is happening to people right now, all over the globe.
It happened to Stephan Cope while studying yoga and Vipassana meditation. It happened to Guy Johnson on the first meditation retreat he attended. And it happened to me, nine years ago.
An Awakening Experience
In August and September of 2004, I had two psychotic experiences and was committed to the Acute Psych Ward of Lion’s Gate Hospital. I was diagnosed bi-polar and prescribed an anti-psychotic and mood stablizer.
Yet, despite the psyche-shattering experience of psychosis, I knew deep down that the experience I’d had was some kind of awakening–albeit completely twisted by my entrenched ego.
During my two periods of psychosis, each of which lasted for approximately five days before sedation brought me down, I’d experienced a number of phenomena I was familiar with from my reading of yogic texts–such as Oneness and Bliss. I knew myself as part of ‘All That Is’ and I perceived the true nature of reality–Oneness–underlying the illusion of separateness. ‘I’ disappeared.
Yet, there was another darker side to this experience. Suddenly, all of the shadow aspects of my psyche, everything I’d been avoiding and denying for the last eight years of travelling and partying around the globe, crowded into my awareness and consciousness.
It was too much energy, too much insight and too much connection. I couldn’t cope and my mind blew out.
Cue men in white coats, medication and waking up in a psych ward.
Naturally obedient to authority, I fast took stock of the status quo and realised my best chance of getting out of the psych ward was to keep quiet about all the spiritual experiences I’d had and accept the diagnosis and medication I was offered.
A psych ward was not the place to be sharing mystical revelations about an awakening experience. Then they’d really think I was crazy.
My plan worked, and I was released after nine long days.
A Shift in Consciousness
A week later, I’d packed up my life in Canada and flew back to my mother’s house in Glenorchy, New Zealand, to try and figure out what had happened to me.
Was I crazy? Or was it something else?
My first port of call was local yoga teachers. My intuition told me that what I’d experienced had something to do with yoga. In the years leading up to my psychosis, I’d been practicing more and more yoga at local studios, plus regularly meditating by myself at home. My meditation was usually accompanied by some kind of consciousness-expanding drug–yes, I loved to trip out while focusing inward. Marijuana was most often my meditation drug of choice, but I also used mushrooms and once or twice, acid.
That combination of drugs, meditation and yoga practice was a recipe for disaster.
It induced a shift in my consciousness before I’d done the hard work on my psyche; facing my shadows and demons at a moderate pace.
I didn’t know all of this then though. I also didn’t find it out from my local yoga teachers. They knew far less than I did.
A Dangerous Combination
It was the internet that proved to be my saviour. There I found stories about Kundalini Awakening and references to works by men like Krishna Gopi, author of Living with Kundalini, and Dr. Lee Sannella, author of The Kundalini Experience: Psychosis of Transcendence. I read everything I could get my hands on. I was desperate to prove that I wasn’t crazy–that something else had happened to me.
Two or so years after my psychosis, I finally met a real yoga teacher–Swami Shantimurti of Ashram Yoga in Auckland.
He was in Queenstown delivering a workshop on the chakras. During this workshop, he spoke about the dangers of using drugs and practicing yoga. He spoke about Kundalini Awakening. And he talked about how awakening Kundalini without the right support and guidance from an experienced teacher could send people into psychosis.
Afterwards, I joined the throng of students around Swami Shantimurti and choked up as I asked him in front of this audience if my experience sounded like some kind of awakening. His confirmation acknowledged what I’d always intuitively known–I wasn’t crazy and my experience was a known quantity. Swami Shantimurti also gave me some practices to stabilize my system.
Since that time, I’ve written and shared of my experiences openly. Many people have contacted me to share their own experiences and ask questions. Most are so relieved to learn that what they’re experiencing is a normal part of the human condition. Awakening is not common, but it is normal.
Or, as Swami Shanitmurti says, awakening is humanity’s evolutionary destiny.
Awakening is Humanity’s Evolutionary Destiny
It’s our evolutionary destiny to have these experiences. The only way to inhibit them from happening is by hedonistic behaviour like eating meat, drinking lots of alcohol, taking lots of substances and living an unaware life. Then the energy doesn’t get intense enough to create an awakening on any kind of level.
Anyone at any time can have an energy shift and it could be on a physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual level. Depending on what level it is will determine the intensity of the experience, how difficult the experience is and how difficult it is to sustain a balanced mind.
Swami Muktidharma of Anahata Yoga Retreat in Takaka, New Zealand, who, like Swami Shantmurti, studied and learned from Swami Satyananda, agrees:
These things can happen when there is no genuine guidance. Many people have come across the experience of making mistakes due to the lack of proper guidance. This becomes painful because some of them can end in mental hospitals and even end up in a comatose state. There are mental purification practices in yoga that first need to be understood because they bring up deep rooted impressions or samskaras.
These awakening experiences are often referred to as Kundalini Awakening, but both Swamis point out that a full Kundalini Awakening is a specific experience that means all of the knots and samskaras of the psyche have been resolved.
Traditionally, an aspirant would spend years, or lifetimes, methodically working through the knots and issues of the psyche through the cleansing practices of yoga before finally having an awakening experience. Now however, there are all kinds of people having various types of awakenings and these awakenings are often lumped under the phrase ‘Kundalini Awakening.’
However this is far away from being a spiritual experience. When people have these kinds of physical experiences they often confuse it with awakening the Kundalini. Swami Muktidharma says:
There is a big misuse of the term ‘Kundalini Awakening.’ Most people who claim to have Kundalini awakened are confused. They do not understand that when you do some yoga practices energy is bound to move through the body. This is the stimulation of prana moving through the body.
Swami Muktidharma’s view is not entirely shared by Swami Shantimurti though, proving that even among long-time yogis, there can be disagreement over exactly what these awakening experiences are and how they’re happening.
A lot of energy experiences aren’t Kundalini Awakening but all energy is Kundalini-based whether it is physical, emotional, mental or spiritual. People are having an energy shift and they can awaken levels of perception that activate the chakras for a while. They can move into some strange modes of behaviour.
The real full-on Kundalini Awakening experience is a surge of energy coming from Mulhadara up the back of the spine, over the top of the head and culminating in the forehead. The whole system has awakened. This can be very strong if people aren’t prepared for it they can become quite schizophrenic or paranoid or have serious so-called mental sicknesses. However, the whole experience can be dealt with successfully through yoga and through associating with someone who’s aware of what is going on.
The problem is, many of us who have these energy shifts have no idea what’s going on at the time, and sometimes even the yoga or meditation teachers we’re studying with don’t know either.
In September 2011, Auckland-based Art Director, Guy Johnson, headed off to a 10-day Vipassana retreat near Auckland, New Zealand.
I’d never meditated before or had any knowledge of what meditation really was. I thought I would learn a technique to help relax and deal with the stresses of life.
What happened on that Vipassana retreat was to change Guy, and his life, forever.
It began on Day two, with a dream of choking a man to death and waking up choking on his own tongue.
Several hours later the penny dropped and I realised I was killing a part of myself. For the rest of the day I was in a surreal state.
By Day three and four, Guy was experiencing flickering visions and lights of all kinds, and his body had started moving through spontaneous mudras.
My tongue felt electrified and rigid. It had curved back to the roof of my mouth. I couldn’t stop it from doing this in meditation. It seemed to be directing a current of energy between my head and my body.
Guy didn’t know it, but he was experiencing a spontaneous Khechari Mudra, or tongue lock mudra. It was minor compared with what was to follow.
Towards the end of this hour-long sit my entire body was awash with sub atomic particles–I felt fluid and unreal. Then a quiet buzzing sound rapidly grew louder and louder and I felt a rumble deep within me. This was accompanied by a very intense pleasurable sensation–almost erotic.
I felt like I was being hit by a freight train and an explosion of the most pure white electricity/energy I’d ever seen. It was inside me, rapidly moving up and down my being. I realised I was nothing but energy–pure white energy. It was extremely intense and felt like a volcanic eruption inside myself. It was also scary. I opened my eyes. Everything looked very surreal.
We all went outside for a break. I was staggering, almost unable to walk straight. I found some earth and kneeled there with my hands on the ground, not really sure what the hell had just happened. I had the same experience again in the evening on the next sit in an almost identical way.
Guy had no knowledge of yoga. He’d never heard of Kundalini. His knowledge of meditation was limited to the retreat. It was time to speak to the Vipassana teacher.
I don’t think he really understood what was going on. He just said: “What Vipassana unlocks is very powerful.”
Following this dramatic fourth day, the rest of the 10-day course was bathed in a mystical air.
I couldn’t sleep at all. Every time I meditated, something new and weird would happen–visions or spontaneous hand mudras, similar to the one you seen Christian saints making.
I’d become electrified after every ‘sit.’ By the evenings I’d be so wired I began hunting the retreat premises looking for a tree big enough for me to hug in a desperate attempt to try and earth myself. I feared for my sanity. I thought I was dissolving and had the eerie sense my body was disappearing. I felt hyper sensitive, almost in a supernatural state. I felt like I was being healed in a vey brutal way. Old emotions and memories came burning back into my present mind. I took all this to mean Vipassana was working and clearing out the toxic karmas in the mind.
Guy left the course feeling like he was bathed in light.
I felt extremely happy, lighthearted and sensitive. For six months after I remained in this state. But more importantly what it had created in me was the beginning of a spiritual quest to want to know myself deeply and to understand the nature of my existence–a quest that I can’t seem to ignore or stop or want to. It feels like this quest is the most important aspect of my life now. It’s a massive shift with big questions being asked and repercussions that are imperceptible to most people, but inside me it feels like a storm is raging.
It was hardly the relaxing experience Guy thought he’d get out of Vipassana–a style of meditation which uses a technique described as an “observation-based, self-exploratory journey to the common root of mind and body that dissolves mental impurity.”
The Cultivation of Clear Seeing
Develop too much clear sight or wisdom into yourself, without the requisite foundation and support of equanimity or calm abiding, and all kinds of strange things can happen. In his book, Stephan Cope shares an experience he had at a month-long Vipassana retreat. Like Guy, he too felt like he was ‘disappearing’–he’d lost a solid sense of Self, or Being-ness. Stephan, author of Yoga and the Quest for the True Self, characterises Vipassana as the cultivation of clear seeing. In his book, which shares his own Kundalini experiences and that of other students and friends, Stephan emphasizes the necessity for the technique of clear seeing–i.e. Vipassana–to be equally balanced with equanimity.
Panicking, Stephen made a late night visit to one of the Vipassana teachers, who calmly told him:
You’re not going crazy. You’ve refined your awareness to a very high degree… Your awareness has grown faster than your equanimity. You need to go back to a practice that creates equanimity.
Stephen was fortunate that his Vipassana teacher was able to recognise the experience he was having and offer a balancing practice. (The Vipassana Centre that Guy attended declined to comment on this story, or Guy’s experience.)
Twin Pillars of the Reality Practice
Stephen’s experience led him to develop the Twin Pillars of the Reality Practice–two sides of us that need to develop at a similar pace during yoga and meditation practice so we can stay balanced and sane–awareness and equanimity.
At our peril, we focus all of our effort on cultivating awareness, often ignoring the vast repertoire of self-building and equanimity practices that are meant to go hand-in-hand with building insight. In fact, the preliminary practices of yoga are almost all about building the calmly abiding self.
This was where my practice went wrong too. Not only was I focusing mostly on clear seeing practices, but I was turbo-charging them with drugs–a recipe for disaster.
I hadn’t yet built a calmly abiding sense of Self, and in fact was woefully ignorant of many aspects of my Self.
It’s a point that Swami Muktidharma makes too.
People who are searching for transformation should understand that we need to apply ourselves to the required processes of learning with the right guidance. Learning yoga techniques directly from books is a big mistake because everyone has his or her own personal interpretation from books and books cannot correct us. Everything that happens must happen in a very systematic process:
- Awakening of the nadis or flows of energy;
- Awakening of the chakras; and,
- Finally awakening of Kundalini, which brings us into different stages of samadhi from Savikalpa Samadhi to the ultimate Nirvikalpa.
It’s a systematic and supportive way to work through our evolutionary destiny. However, it’s not the way that most of us practice yoga. Many of us flit from practice to practice. We go to teachers who trained in a month and know little more than correct alignment of the body in asana.
Finding a True Teacher
Yet finding a true yoga teacher is a gift, as they are rare. Swami Muktidharma says:
Some teachers have a lot of knowledge that comes from their own personal experience. These are the real teachers who will be able to contribute with proper guidance for those students who have had such experiences.
Swami Shantimurti is pragmatic in his view.
As a yoga teacher you have to expect something to happen to a student of yours at some time. You have to expect it these days as the potential is there. But because of the number of yoga teachers out there now it’s impossible to expect them all to have a comprehensive understanding of the energy aspect of yoga. As long as yoga teachers have someone they can refer a student to that they have confidence in. That’s good enough.
I found that teacher in Swami Shantimurti. Guy Johnson found Tara Springett on the internet.
A UK-based Tibetan Buddhist teacher and psychologist who’s had her own Kundalini experience, Tara works with clients all over the world who’ve had Kundalini experiences.
I educate people on what Kundalini is, how it works, how it progresses, and what it can include so they can feel safer about what’s happening because they understand it’s a normal process.This helps them to let go of the fear around what’s happening to them.
Then I deal with the issues that are arising as a result of the experience–starting with the emotional and spiritual issues. Usually, if those are addressed, the physical symptoms will fall away.
Her guidance and support made a world of difference for Guy, who had gone from intense energetic experiences at the retreat, to dealing with the reality of his experience–mood swings, and feelings of alienation and dislocation from friends and society, anxiety and fear. Although Guy’s also quick to point out that there’s many gifts to his experience too.
I feel like I’ve had a system’s upgrade for my ideas and intuition. I also experience clairsentience often–feeling another’s energy. Not that these elements are important or the goal–they are just some of the more pleasant side effects.
Tara was a great anchor for Guy and taught him how to ground himself with heart chakra-based meditations that develop loving kindness.
I learnt that Kundalini, once activated, will work through the system bringing up anything that was negative and toxic for it to be worked on. Now grounded and informed I can handle the rocky moments with much more acceptance, and I’ve also learnt to enjoy the pleasant moments and see them for what they are–little fleeting indications of progress.
An Expanding Experience of Reality
Guy’s experience mirrors mine. Once I knew what I was experiencing, and how to balance out the energy fluctuations and work with the arising samskaras, I was able to settle back into regular life, albeit with an expanding experience of reality.
Guy is just one of many people I’ve been in contact with over the last eight years who’ve had awakening experiences.
Most of them haven’t known what’s going on and have struggled to find yoga or meditation teachers who could support them.
But with the help of the internet and serious teachers like Swami Shantimurti, Swami Muktidharam and Tara Springett, it is possible to work through shifts in consciousness without experiencing too much alienation or dislocation from regular life–and without ending up in a psych ward.
One danger for those who’ve experienced awakenings of some kind is the immediate co-opting of the experience by the ego–the awakening becomes another story that bolsters the ego identification. The shift in consciousness fades and one moves back into identification with thoughts. That was my immediate experience after the psychosis. I was my thoughts again and the awakening was relegated to an experience that I’d ‘had.’
Yet once there’s a glimpse of that other world, the knowing remains. That knowing became my North Star, as I knuckled down to do the hard work on dissolving the many samskaras and knots in my psyche. I met teachers like Swami Shantimurti and discovered that ironically, some of the best teachers of awakening are not yoga teachers at all, but men like Adhyshanti and Eckhart Tolle.
They’ve both written and spoken extensively about their own experiences and what it’s like to live an enlightened life–Adhyshanti going as far as to write a most helpful book called The End of Your World.
The End of Your World
Because at it’s heart, that’s what awakening feels like. One world has ceased to exist and another world has arisen in it’s place– not one where the ‘me’ or the ‘I’ rules though, but rather a world in which one just is.
Today, my experience is characterised mostly by Being. Ego identification also takes place, but it’s becoming easier and easier to spot that subtle shift in awareness when it occurs. I see the stories the ‘me’ wants to generate and buy into, and with that awareness I can let them go.
This is the work of awakening–moment by moment, coming back into an abiding sense of awareness.
Because that’s all that awakening is–an ordinary sense of Being right now. Nothing magical or special about it. That yoga teacher who once told me she’d never awaken in this life time–she’s likely experienced moments where she’s Awake without even realising it. So too have you.
Moments like complete absorption in beauty, like a sunset, where you cease to exist and there is only perception. Or moments like being carried away by a beautiful piece of music. Or moments of life; like a newborn child, and moments of death; like intense grief.
In those moments, all thoughts of ‘I’ disappear and only perception remains–consciousness.
You have to separate from the body and brain first i.e. you established yourself as the Inner Witness , i.e. the true Self , in this state you are not bothered by any experience of the bpdy senses or thoughts or visions , remain as the inner witness and go deeper inside to experience yourself as Eternal Spirit. know Thy Self…..as Eternal Spirit. Socrates .
Too much information! Left confused rather than informed
Its very much true. But By gods grace We mediate with heartfulness.org from 16 years. Really its only system in which whole family can mediate . I humbly request you to experience this brothers and sisters. No cost or hidden cost. You can mediate any were in the world by downloading hotspots in heartfulness.org. There is no force. we are free to do anything which is right. I Pray all brothers and sister get absorbed in godly remembrance. Really Guru will come to your doorstep. He will Knock your door.
Very nice and informative article.very nice presentation.
I’ve just been told, by a medium upon looking at me, oh Hun, you don’t have mental illness. You’ve taken way too many drugs and you vibrate on a different frequency.
Reading this is making sense.
I’m one month post hospitalization for psychosis. It’s been happening ever since my last op. 3 months post op now.
So much to learn
This article rules.
I had a kundalini awakening in 2012 accompanied by psychosis for 3 years and I have only become “somewhat normal” recently, being able to be around people and able to conversate with them. Also accompanied by a strange online person, being, extraterrestrial, etc. Experiencing a strong magnetic force from above blast into my crown chakra, resulting in a black out leading to a ultrasensative psychedelic world guided by orbs, visions and voices, and constant hallucinations. I could touch fire and not get burnt. I thought I was god. So…off to the psyche ward for the 6th time. Currently now 7. I still have problems and research kundalini and strange phenomena because I still don’t know WTF happened to me and is happening to me. So, here I am!!!!! I loved the article and can relate in sooooo many ways, but also feel differently. Awake and aware are synonymous, as to the result of an expanded conciousness, but there Is something for science to explain for having a lightning bolt stuck inside your body along with the life changing physical and psychelogical effects. I still have the lightning bolt in my forehead that constantly has a static-like vacuum suction and I always see a pulsating, translucent multicolored etheral shapshifting cloud when I close my eyes. It wasn’t there before, so, I don’t awareness is enough to credit, although I think It is the driving force to lead your conciousness towards this phenomena. For me, it was my interest in psychic phenomena, extraterrestrials, government conspiracies and how phony religion and society is that made me a truthseeker. I think it Is now seeking us.
I am so sorry.
My son and I are both catholic and both addicts. We have both experienced the same thing as your daughter.
Things we have done:
We have found AA a super helpful non judgemental place.
Find a good priest who understands inner healing and how the sacraments can help.
Find a good therapist who accepts spiritual things but also how to spot psychological issues.
Learning how to mediate and yoga practice will help with the anxiety.
Careful with the benzos. If she was smoking weed she’ll abuse prescription meds. Sorry addicts abuse drugs that’s what we do.
But all these things are thing she must do and she won’t until it hurts enough.
In the meantime you should just be happy to be with her and accept her, faults and all. Everyday tell her 3 things you appreciate about her and ask for forgiveness for the times you were angry with her. She needs you.
I am a spiritual person but my 16 year old daughter doesn’t want anything to do with my beliefs, about two months ago she decided to experience smoking marijuana with a cousin and when I got a phone call I heard screams that no parent ever wants to hear coming from their child, she was experiencing shifts in dimensions and she wasn’t able to ground herself back into her body, she was in a complete psychosis for the next 3 hours vomiting into a trash can terrified to raise her head up,my daughter and I are very close but for the last couple months she’s isolated from everyone including me, I knew immediately what happened but if I even try talking to her about it she completely shuts me out, she’s constantly dissociating which puts her into a full blown panic attack because she feels like she’s just going to disappear, she had a dream that she asked God why this was happening to her and she blew my mind when she told me what he said back to her ” you’re going through the dark night of the soul”, I’ve never discussed anything about that with her, that was all God but she won’t allow me to even talk about it with her, how can I get her through this any suggestions?
“Early” enlightenment isn’t full enlightenment. It’s a thinning of the veil, violent or slow, but the veil closes again but the folks think they are enlightened when they just had some “realization”, just a piece.
I think this is what just happened to my husband. He is currently in a mental hospital. I am in Atlanta, GA if there is any Masters in my area it would definitely be helpful to find one that could help him get realigned.
Thanks a lot for sharing this article…very similar with lots of us…Know that’s all answers is inside of us…but you must prepare to unlearn all that you learned before what will change your life completely…
Be your own masters 🙂
I had a very scary experience after kindling yoga as well as info overload at a festival, the shift was so powerful , I have decided Inever want to do Kundalini again I will stick to Ashtanga, vinyasa or dynamic yoga in future excuse misspells. I would rather evolve slowly than lose my head again, even though Ifeel a breakdown is actually a breakthrough
Wow? These story’s are similar to mine. It’s so amazing to read about these. Thank you.
I lived with one of the teachers you mentioned for years from a very young age. He was basically a psychopath, he had no empathy and very little education. I loved him with utmost devotion…but his love in return was just grooming me. He did f*ck all Yoga himself and I personally witnessed him in states of psychosis, ranting and raving to nobody, he was utterly paranoid. He bullied so many of his students and would share with me his plans to make new people suffer. If you believe everything he said I don’t think your journey towards sanity has ended yet. Yoga has a pretty story for everything…your anal gland is your four-petaled lotus and your Kundalini bliss is your bi-polar high. It’s one way of experiencing states of mind & brain chemicals, a pretty cool one at times, but I don’t think it or anything else is the Truth, The Light and The Way. Part of enlightenment is transcending Yoga and Yogic beliefs in my opinion. Yoga seeks the very brain chemicals that Western society tries to suppress…I suppose there is no right or wrong way to experience it all, as long as nobody gets hurt. Sadly though, many Yoga teachers who put themselves as leader of the flock are high as a kite on power psychosis and hurt as many people as they help.
I agree with most of the comments below having had many profound spiritual, meditative and spontaneous kundalini experiences without guidance since my vispassna days and I too was institutionalised. For me personally, once introduced to the realm beyond ego I believe it is all about how we choose to treat others on a daily basis. Once one has touched that realm life is more simple and loving in the end and that’s what really counts: Compassionate Intelligence imho.
I am heartened by the many wise and well-informed comments here.
In the past, a spiritual seeker would expect to spend time in an apprenticeship, practising with an experienced guide – usually one who came through the personal recommendations of people known and trusted. In the tradition I am most familiar with, Theravada Buddhism, at least 5 years of commitment to a teacher/guide was expected.
There is no comparison with popping a pill or the equivalent – or a few hours surfing the net for comforting words.
The seeker had a support system and wise counsel – ethical guidelines and a fair idea of what s/he was aiming for.
Another pitfall that diverts seekers from the path is the ‘scourge of synonyms’ and mis-translation.
Netsurfing is no substitute for personal research into the many options available.
On the inner journey, it helps to gather the supplies and tools that can help you on the way – and would you not examine a map before setting off on a trek though unfamiliar territory?
This was not an article about “enlightenment”. This was an article about an ego that was so flexible and could extend to the point of almost breaking … but didn’t. And then the ego snapped back and chalked up another “religious experience”, err sorry, “enlightenment”, and further entrenched the author’s “spiritual materialism”.
Read Thomas Merton’s essay “Transcendent Experience” in”Zen and the Birds of Appetite”. Or even better read “Halfway Up The Mountain: The Error of Premature Claims to Enlightment” by Mariana Caplan.
I’m astounded to hear that people confuse meditation enlightenment with drugs meddling with their minds and blame result on meditation.Just leave the shit alone.You either a yogi or drug addict
I too had what was deemed a “schizophrenic episode” after yoga, chakra work, Reiki, soul searching, and pot came to a head. I spoke in non-sense and was brought to the hospital when my boyfriend called the ambulance. He described it as it being my “meat body” but someone else talking. That night, I literally believed I was in hell. Waking up, I was grateful for everything. And in a daze. Like Guy, I felt like I was not myself. Had the hospital been a truly healing environment, this may have been a positive transformative time. However, in the true hellishness that is the American Psych Ward, I was truly terrified. And then truly drugged.
Thank you so much for sharing your story. My event happened in January 2015, and since I have found connection with Divinity, found passion for life, and the courage to deal with my samskaras and the misalignments within my life. I still am working through tremendous fear and flashbacks to that total belief of being in hell, and pot is a HORRIFIC experience for me now. I seek forgiveness and balance for myself each day and humble myself that my gifts and talents may serve to bring greater goodness into the world.
I have begun Kundalini yoga, but fear has kept me from fully diving in, fear of another meltdown. I’ve recognized my sensitivity, my compassion, and my zeal for life through this experience. I deeply love and deeply and totally feel gratitude through my whole been.
Thank you any who read this and may your lives be blessed, whole, and full of love <3
To me there seem to be two basic paths: The big NO (Neti-Neti-Neti) and the big YES (Tat Tvam Asi). Ascetic Christianity focuses on the big NO. If done with a teacher, the personal self will disappear. However to continue to function in consensus reality, one requires some sort of sense of a separate identity. Generally in this case the aspirant imprints the self of the teacher. You become the person who ‘kills’ you, so to speak. Another variant of this path is to go it alone somewhere in isolation. This is more difficult without a guide, but if done successfully the aspirant will then ‘imprint’ nature itself, the four elements, as the self. I tried both these variations, the latter with the assist of LSD in the desert that triggered imprinting solar consciousness, and entering an I-Thou bhakti love worship with our parent star. I have remained there for the past 51 years, despite various Karma Yoga interruptions and intrusions, and also not losing my separate identity except whenever I focus on the solar disc.
The Tat Tvam Asi path, ‘Thou Art That,” also has serious pitfalls if done without a guide, with various ego inflations among the worst risks. Here is where equanimity, as mentioned above, is so important, not clinging even to one’s own ‘enlightenment.’ I’m reminded of this story:
John Daido Loori was a monk at the Los Angeles Zen Center. One day he said to Maezumi Roshi: “I have resolved the question of life and death.”
Maezumi: “Are you sure?”
Maezumi: “Are you really sure?”
Maezumi threw himself violently upon Loori and began to strangle him. Loori struggled to escape, but to no avail. Finally he swung back his fist and struck his teacher, knocking him aside.
Maezumi rose to his feet and brushed himself off. “Resolved the question of life and death, eh?” he said, and walked off.
Later, Loori passed a senior monk, Genpo Sensei. Sensei saw the marks of his teacher’s fingers on Loori’s throat.
“Told Roshi you’d resolved the question of life and death, did you?” he said.
Bowing to all our innate oneness
I’m not seeing the danger of “Early Enlightenment” so much as the danger of doing mind expanding drugs without proper set and setting. Yes, they can open us up. Yes, such an experience can be profoundly unsettling.
I too ended up on psychiatric medication when I made the mistake of sharing my opening experiences. I later realized that the problem was embarking on my path without a grounded companion. A great guru or teacher is wonderful, but a grounded and experienced spiritual companion can be enough. The internet can provide background but is a pale substitute for a guide.
You say that Philip’s experience was similar to yours. I beg to differ. He had an unsettling opening during a 10 day sit. He had support and was given a practice to balance his opening. You make my point for me.
Deep meditation, entheogens, prolonged retreats and so on can open one up. Phillip Baker Roshi called experiences such as you describe as premature kenshos ( the Zen name for openings) My emphasis is on premature. True kensho, nirvana, enlightenment, whatever you call it, comes when the change in integrated fully the experience.
Enlightenment does happen without help. The dangers come from considering it a wholly DIY project.
Or perhaps William Blake’s : Jerusalem The Emanation of the Giant Albion.
If you’re really wondering what being ‘woke’ is (sweet lord has language fallen so far…) Jung and Blake not only went through the experience but they also mythologized it for us (the clever lads) and if you’re wondering where that leaves you there are wonderful answers contained with both The a Red Book and many of Blake’s writing…or you could do yoga and find your rocking chakras….
Carl Jung’s The Red Book.
Loved this article