There’s a lot of terms that get thrown around all the time in spiritual circles… yet often there’s no examination of what we’re referring to by those terms.
To that end, I’d like to start a new series focusing on The Basics of Tantrik Teachings, and in particularly focusing on explaining words. (Happy to take requests for topics too!)
My teacher Christopher Wallis is an academically-trained practitioner, and a consummate content-creator. So where it’s useful, I’ll share resources from Christopher that give a deeper, academic AND practitioner-based grounding in these concepts. (My approach to the path has been more experiential and intuitive first and foremost, and then informed by the teachings and teachers I’ve come across.)
The key aspect to realise about “Awakening” is that it is NOT an experience, but a paradigm shift. The way that one experiences reality shifts completely.
This can be a glimpse, or it can be abiding, or it can be anywhere in between.
It doesn’t mean that someone is enlightened though. Awakening happened in 2004 for me, but it was non-abiding, and it definitely didn’t mean I was enlightened!
What it did mean was that I had experienced another way to be in reality, and I now had a reference point to guide me on this journey. It was also excruciatingly painful because the way life felt from awakeness compared to how life felt through conditioned mind was like the difference between heaven and hell.
Awakening can unfold spontaneously, or it can appear to happen as the result of practice. It can be liberating, it can be frightening, it can come with all kinds of bells and whistles, lights and phenomena, or it can be small and quiet.
Christopher describes it beautifully here:
“Awakeness is not just another interpretation of reality to integrate with all your other stories — it’s a paradigm shift that obliterates interpretations and launches you into an absolutely indescribable mode of being in which the only true ‘knowing’ is unknowing everything you ever thought you knew. It’s dwelling in raw intimacy with absolutely every thing, free of the need to understand or interpret it, and free of the impulse to accept or reject it. (Including your own thoughts!)”
I love that phrase – awakening is dwelling in raw intimacy with everything. That’s the thing!
This is my lived experience now – except when I’m thrown out by strong emotional/mental body sensations, or by fear. These things still happen, and eventually, even when they do, it won’t kick me out of immersion in reality.
What this means is that my experience of reality now is intermittent awakeness, or orientation to essence nature. That is, it comes and goes.
People often use the term “kundalini awakening” as a catch-all phrase to describe all kind of things that may or may not be awakening itself. Often, “kundalini awakening” is simply the movement of Prana-Shakti within the body, that can create all kinds of sensations, sights and sounds.
However if there is no paradigm shift in one’s experience of reality, it’s not actually awakening. It would be more accurate to call it “Kundalini Stirring.”
It’s important to note that awakening NEEDS to be followed by integration, which means that how you show up in reality ALSO changes – not just how you perceive reality.
Often people who have had kundalini awakening experiences relate to those experiences from the perspective of:
- How do I get back to normal?
- How do I stop this/fix this/heal this?
The person is attempting to control or manipulate the experience to attain a particular outcome. This is the default mode of operating in the world for most people.
From the perspective or View of Tantra, if kundalini awakening experiences happen, the way to relate to those experiences is:
- What am I being shown?
- What am I being asked to do?
- How to I ground and integrate this experience?
- How do I let Kundalini guide me?
There is a general attitude of curisousity, openness and surrender. This will often ease some of the stronger symptoms that can show up with a Kundalini awakening. These symptoms are usually related to blocks in the physical, mental/emotional or energetic body. The symptoms point to the purification that needs to happen.
Traditionally, the practices of yoga, including the yoga cleansing practices (shatkarma) like neti, were designed to purify the body (all of the first three layers) so that when Kundalini did start to move, and awakening happened, there was already a capacity to hold the intense amounts of energy that can surge through the system.
Yet at the same time, awakeness is available right now. In this moment. And in this moment.
You don’t have to do anything, or learn anything, or know anything to ‘get there’. It’s the opposite – it’s about letting go and surrender everything. About burning through everything. Everything as in… all your ideas, beliefs, attachments, conditioning, roles and identities.
That makes me laugh. And as I write these words, I’m pausing to breathe, to drop down into presence, to drop out of thought… immersion in reality. The feel of the sun on my skin, the burnt red of the leaves on the tree outside my window, the bird flying past… when I open to all of this, I become both nobody and everything all at once.
So is awakening the goal? Kind of, but not really. Any goal implies a future place to arrive at, which will never happen.
Instead, begin to notice aliveness right now. Notice the feeling of your breath, without thinking about it. Notice the feeling of the sun on your skin, without thinking about it. Notice the view, without thinking about it. notice how it feels to be alive, without thinking about it.
Notice, without thinking.
Of course, thinking will happen. So notice that, and bring awareness back to the felt-sense of being alive.
Over, and over and over again.