February 22, 2011

Tantric Kundalini: Is it All About the Sex?

Kundalini isn’t complicated. My mentor and friend Swami Maheshananda Saraswati—swamiji for short—explains it very simply. Prana, the life-force or vital energy that is all around us and embodied by our breath, enters our system through sahasrara, our crown chakra, and travels down into muladhara, our root chakra. There, for most of us, it lays dormant yet still very much alive, and becomes known as Kundalini. For some of us, it begins to rise up.

But Kundalini has a very complex reputation. Some think of it as purely sexual, others as dangerous. There are rumours of hospitals in India devoted to patients who had a too-early Kundalini rising.

The fact that this energy is often depicted as a coiled snake could be one of the reasons. In the Western world, we’re not such fans of snakes. It’s a cultural thing. The University of Massachusetts reports that “in India, cobras were regarded as reincarnations of important people called Nagas. Our modern medical symbol of two snakes wrapped around a staff, or ‘caduceus,’ comes from ancient Greek mythology. According to the Greeks, the mythical figure Aesculapius discovered medicine by watching as one snake used herbs to bring another snake back to life.”

The fact that Kundalini energy is often associated with sex is probably another reason. Once again, cultural bias comes into play. North Americans aren’t known for their liberal, accepting attitudes towards sexual pleasure. Compare us to the mistress-happy French. India gave us the Kama Sutra.

As Cyndi Dale explains in her comprehensive, practical book simply called Kundalini, Kundalini yoga is a Tantric practice, where, unlike in traditional Vedic-based Hatha practices, the body is not seen as a vessel we’re working to escape, but rather a tool to be revered and used in our path towards “liberation.” I’m putting liberation in air quotes because I think it needs to be taken lightly. We don’t need to rise above our everyday experience to meet the divine; we can meet the divine in our everyday experience, inside our everyday bodies. So there’s my bias: I’m in line with the Tantric philosophy, and lean towards the idea that our everyday experience is divine and wonder-full, rather than the idea that we need to release ourselves and our souls from our everyday experience.

As Dale writes, this is where working with Kundalini energy and our bodies, through Kundalini yoga, or meditation, or pranayama, or the assistance of a healer, comes in. And yes, this is where sex as a spiritual practice comes in. Dale herself is a renowned healer who has firsthand experience of Kundalini energy and has worked with many clients who experience it rising and moving. My experience with this energy has been through my own practices and Kundalini yoga classes with Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa and Gloria Latham. Swamiji has been there to answer questions, provide simple exercises, and explain it all along the way.

As Kundalini energy rises, it moves up through our chakra system, either encountering blocks—emotional, physical, or psychological holding patterns that don’t serve us—or not. If it encounters blocks, they’ll be brought to the surface of our lives, so we can clear them. This can be emotionally, physically, and psychologically challenging—but in my experience, if we’re open to growth and aware of our own capacity to evolve, it’s not scary. If the Kundalini energy doesn’t encounter blocks, it’ll keep going, with the end result being the merging of energy from the base of our spine and muladhara chakra with the sahasrara chakra at the top. This experience taps us into boundless love, consciousness, and sometimes psychic powers. Don’t get caught up in the psychic powers stuff—it’s not the important part.

For people who don’t have their own Swamiji, Dale’s book would be a handy substitute. Filled with first-hand experiences, anecdotal and scientific evidence, and practical pranayama, asana and meditation practices, it’s one of the most comprehensive books on Kundalini I’ve ever read. For those looking for more info on the subject, this is the place to start. One caveat: Kundalini energy isn’t the only answer to the question “Where does the divine come in?” But you won’t hear that from Dale in this book. Just remember it’s just one map towards the divine.

As Rumi said,

“There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”



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