“There seems to be a vacancy in understanding what pilgrimage is in today’s world. Undergoing a rigorous physical pilgrimage is like a hammer to glass. It doesn’t gnaw at you. It breaks you down in your resistance. If you are physically strong, there will more likely be more pride and that vice is what gets gnawed in other ways. As you walk and bring wonder to the rocky roads of Spain, at some point in the journey the constant hammering of feet to ground becomes the rhythm that ushers and invites looking at the mind and heart.
The pilgrimage route is the external form that provide a container to maximize our recognition of grace flowing throughout our being and existence. What are the ways that we can be more available to the grace that flows and to the grace that shows us where we are stuck in our egotism and entitlements? Entitlements are those places where we feel privileged and deserve special treatment. How do we get lost in the forest and not see the woods? Here, we get an opportunity to meet and confront our personal demons to heal our present selves. In the way, we meet the future road with vigor and new hope while we reconcile with our past. In our lostness with goals and gains, we sometimes not see people and lives mattering. We live lives that beget losses rather than mutual wins. We bring our deepest vulnerabilities, pain, ignorance and doubts as well as our curiosity and sense of adventure and trust to the pilgrimage.” -excerpt from the book
Waking up is just the beginning of the spiritual journey. Then we have life to continually wake up to. This is a story of the integration of being and personality through the vissitudes of a full life after a kundalini rising. This book helps people navigate through an intense spiritual awakening, both for the individual and loved ones. The book is filled with practical applications to include and alchemize the light and dark aspects of yourself.
What happens after an intense spiritual awakening? How do you navigate the unwinding and deconstruction of self on the physio-psycho-spiritual system? Who is the Kundalini and why does it matter to you? How do we honor and benefit from the gifts of phenomena, and at the same time, see through we are none of these?
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Excerpts from book:
Different people experience kundalini differently depending on different stages of rising as well as what blocks are in the physio-psycho-spiritual system. By sharing my experiences of initially plowing through the purification process of a kundalini rising (only to come to surrender each time), my wish is that this may serve as a guide for the reader on how to be with your vital essence in a most graceful way. If it is not graceful, then may my experiences shed light for you to discover what you can do to make it more graceful. May it be an inspiration for you to trust your own path of awakening. Kundalini can be explosive and rapid as a fire razes through a dry forest of beliefs and world views. It can also be smooth like mist. Over the decades, I have learnt and familiarized myself with the various ways of operating as a system. This meant learning how I used my human electromagnetic field as well as my entire human energetic system. I also used the knowledge and experience of the elements as medicine. Elements are air, fire, earth and water. Every food we eat, color we wear, scent, people’s moods, seasons, and everything in the world has a predominance of element. I experientially practiced following my fluid body as well to work through the unwinding of trauma from the cellular level. This was in addition to years of Jungian psychology. Because kundalini rising is an alchemical process, I needed to be an alchemist to find balance that brought the greatest ease. There was a whole lot of trial and error. Life is like that.
Surrender honed over decades has allowed me to listen to the teachings of the Shakti (Divine Power Consciousness). There were times that my ego personality desperately wanted to control and manage the phenomena that was very disturbing. This grasping created more problems with the kundalini process. Think of BIG energy moving up your spine, and then LITTLE energy (ego) trying to micromanage the direction of big energy. It doesn’t work. Part of my development was seeing directly these distinctions as energy patterns, and then translating them into the integration of being and non-being. There is a necessary place for the ego, but I found it wasn’t the way we usually think about it.
I had just finished a week of retreat on the bardos (intermediate states between two lives). The next day I was in the emergency room. The left side of my body was numb, like novocaine. My left arm and left leg felt as though they were in buckets of ice cold water or dry ice. The weight was heavier on my left side. I was alone and I did not know if it was a stroke I was feeling. How was I going to leave that room in what condition? I didn’t know if I would die right then. I took deep breaths and let the air out through my mouth repeatedly. Tears silently glided down my cheeks. I was scared. I searched for the face of God. I wanted a personal God. My Buddhist practice did not provide me with one. Somehow at that moment reminding myself of clear light was not enough. I called Ammaji, and she came, kissing the left side of my face, stroking/caressing the left side of my body. I remember the instructions from the bardo teachings, “You can’t get hurt. You’re dead already.” Repeating this to myself over and over again brought deep peace and acceptance.
“As we entered the last bridge, Sugata stopped his car and said, “It’s your last chance to turn back.” I gulped, noted my fear, and overrode it. He gave me one of the houses half buried in snow, showed me how to turn on the heater, gave a tour of the pantry and I began my winter retreat. It was a beautifully crafted wooden cottage with rose paintings of a double vajra on its ceiling. Its simplicity framed the depth of blizzards and the ever changing snowy landscape that engulfed me. I burnt many candles that winter. I had shelter, food and all I had to do was watch the mind! I grounded oat seeds by hand and soaked them overnight. That was breakfast. Lunch was rice, sprouted mung beans and grated carrots. Dinner was same or soup with rye bread and homemade cranberry jam. Once a month or so, I would have frozen spinach as a treat. It was harder to cook for myself than to cook for the whole monastery with the Roshi.
Sprouting the mung beans was essential for me that retreat. The seeds reminded me of the mystery of life and to never underestimate it. The power of life force breaking through into its next manifestation is simply immense, powerful and mysterious. The changing snow landscape was my constant teacher. I could not predict anything. I surrendered.
Initially, I took down the bathroom mirror at the beginning of the retreat and hid it. Though as winter progressed, I would peek at it just to remind myself that I was still there. The sun did not touch my side of the valley for the whole three months except the last two days. The first week in Shangri-La, I could still walk with my regular shoes outside, but then it kept snowing and my legs got swallowed up by the snow. I didn’t know how to ski. Sugata gave me a very quick lesson and bought me skis and a red anorak. Red so if I get lost in the countryside, I can be seen and found quickly in the landscape of snow. He took me on top of a hill, and said to bend my knees and let the poles swing behind me, and I flew in the air down the hill so fast. He hadn’t taught me how to stop yet. The fall on the bottom was cushioned by laughter as I saw Sugata, this generous man in his late eighties, running down the hill towards me to make sure that I was all right!
My soul has been penetrated. This is what life does. It is the invitation to being in an incarnated body here on earth. In these pages, rainbows span the skies and rivers flood the ground to fertilize it for new growth. Feelings are so varied, rich and ancient as the earth herself. These poems are the expressions. They belong to no one and to everyone. They escape time yet are born in time. Have you ever watched a salamander? May you be touched as I am. These reflections are echoes of a journey called living. Death is actually many stops along the road of life. Like grief, joy has many faces. In the mirror of those we love, we see the reflections of the seasons shifting. It is not only people that die. Dreams die too. Our sense of who we are also die. We grieve for the loved ones we have lost. We grieve more deeply for the us we know in relation to these departed loved one. When someone we love dies, we die with them. In this dying, we realize that there is never a separation for we never were separated in the first place. When the sun sets, we welcome the mystery of the evening. When the sun rises, we live the mystery of the day. In our death while still alive, we discover what being born is. From this place, we become wiser, kinder and willing to live more fully. May you live from the full expression of your being.