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Letter to the Editor

Kundalini: A Great Journey

A psychotherapist with extensive experience of Kundalini comments on the risks and benefits of awakening.

By Bonnie Greenwell, Ph.D.

Received February 24, 2000 at 1:09 AM

YOU HAVE a beautiful website and it has much potential for reaching people who want to understand their spiritual processes and the deeper meaning of them.

I am writing because your site was referred to me by a client who was very alarmed by some of the comments in Glenn Morris’s article, Partial Kundalini Awakening: No Such Thing.

I am a researcher, psychotherapist and the author of Energies of Transformation: A Guide to the Kundalini Process. I have worked with hundreds of people over the past 15 years who I believe were in a kundalini process. It is a great challenge to help people tolerate the non-ordinary experiences they have as a consequence of spiritual awakening when they are told that this is dangerous and they could go insane (a common perspective of medical people who have no paradigm for this experience, and of some meditation or martial art teachers who have no knowledge of psychology and very little of the mystical elements of kundalini awakening).

Kundalini has been known in every culture for thousands of years and if you read the lives of mystics it is easy to recognize. It is an innate potentiality for each of us.The confusion, pain that may (but does not always) arise, visions, inner sounds, energy and heat rushes, and flushing up of old psychological issues — are not insanity! They are a process that is trying to transform you.

I am a founder of the Kundalini Research Network and have organized several conferences and attended all but one of their conferences. Very few people who come to these events (we have had nine conferences) were ever hospitalized for this experience.(If I had to guess I would say maybe 5% — perhaps about 10 people of the hundreds I have interviewed.) If they were hospitalized it was usually as a result of a drug reaction, or a misdiagnosis by a doctor, or during a brief crisis which was resolved within a few days.

Kundalini does not make you insane with the following exceptions: 1) If it awakens in someone who has a very shaky personality structure to begin with, who has always had problems and who is already on an edge; or 2) the person is using drugs, usually pretty heavily, at the time of awakening. (This is not insanity but a drug-induced reaction which usually clears up in a few weeks if the person changes their habits). Some people become dysfunctional, but hardly insane, because they do practices that are too intense for their constitution and their life is out of balance. This energy will not work well if you use alcohol regularly, have sex promiscuously, hang out with toxic people, or live a frantic and overstretched lifestyle. (This is not a moral issue — it is an energetic issue — the process needs your cooperation to work well).

This awakening demands that we put our life and attitudes in order, mature our expectations of life, give up stressful work and toxic relationships, develop moderation, and get our health in balance. People who have a history of abuse or trauma, or PTSD, or perhaps had an NDE that triggered their awakening may have greater difficulties adjusting because the awakening can bring up all the unfinished psychological business and the cellular memory of their trauma. They need to get therapy and learn to trust and have compassion for themselves and others. Once they have worked through the psychological issues it is easier to work effectively with the spiritual energy.

Many people have partial awakenings. In fact, hardly anyone has a full awakening, which would imply they are completely free and enlightened. Ramana Maharshi could be a model of this. Being free means making no personal demands of life, no emotional upheavals, no old personality traps to fall into. It means one lives spontaneously with recognition that there is nothing other than god, that all of us are the play of consciousness. Such people are happy — why not? They make no personal demands of life.

Many people have gradual awakenings which bring a slowly expanding capacity to experience altered states of being, greater compassion, a tendency to service in the world, a sense of peace, the loss of the fear of death and other benefits. Some yogic and Buddhist systems provide an awakening so gradual it has no difficulties. Some people have dramatic awakenings through all the chakras at once and feel blown out into space. This may seem to be a “full” awakening but it is not the complete experience unless they are completely transformed. Generally the energy settles back down, with a continual hum remaining in the body, and months and years of personal work are needed to find the natural peace and completion of this experience. If people use kundalini for power, control, manipulation — they are stuck. They are not fully awakened. They have activated a powerful connection with the life-force but they have not completed the transformative potential of this experience, which is basically union with all that is and the dissolution of personal attachments.

People who are fully transformed by the process are kind, present, exude a dispassionate love, and seem to be empty of all conflict. This completion is a major step for the ego, because it is ultimately dissolved, so it is not surprising or wrong that anyone takes a lifetime or more to get through it, with much backsliding and distraction. After all, we are attached to being who we are and many of us worked hard to get to a strong sense of personal self.

Kundalini awakening is the beginning of a journey that will eventually shift all of your thinking, feeling and spiritual perspectives until you see the ego for the illusion it is. It can be a great journey if you are prepared or willing to make it. If you are angry, resistant, physically unwell, have a tendency to cling to people or ideas, push yourself too hard into extreme practices, and misunderstand this process as “insanity” you can have great difficulties with it. Certainly there are some mentally unstable folks that may have an awakening and will not be able to deal with it effectively. But 95% of those I have met in this process are creative, well-educated, successful, sensitive, loving, and remarkable people in the world. They are not saints and mystics in the traditional sense — they are ordinary but vital and comfortable with a spirituality and a lifestyle they know is not consensus or mainstream. They work to find ways to live a life in line with the profound beauty, love and ecstasy they have experienced. They experience either devotion to or union with what we might call the source of life.

I hope you will encourage those who write to you with problems to get help if it is a psychological problem, but recognize when it is a spiritual problem, known for centuries. I have over 300 scriptures, lectures and biographies from spiritual traditions that describe kundalini awakening in positive (although often challenging) terms. It is simply a secret in our society where we have allowed external sources to define what god is and what we have to do to be in relationship with “him.” Anyone who has spent much time in this process has had deep, profound connections with the source that has taught them lessons well beyond any Western religious studies. I hope you can help people trust this. They are in no way crazy. They have simply had glimpses of truth and freedom. I have met the most creative, vital, strong, capable, passionate, and loving people all over the world who are living this experience.

I have a personal website your members may be interested in — — and I work with people individually by email or in person in the San Francisco Bay area. The Kundalini Research Network has a site at We hope to have a one-day regional meeting in Aptos, California in October but the schedule is not yet firmed up. People can get on the mailing list by emailing me their mailing address at

Bonnie Greenwell
Kundalini Research Network

Copyright 2000 Bonnie Greenwell.

Bonnie Greenwell, Ph.D., is a transpersonal therapist and author of three books about Kundalini and awakening.

Pages by Bonnie Greenwell on this Site


Related Books

Bonnie Greenwell, The Kundalini Guide

The Kundalini Guide: A Companion for the Inward Journey

By Bonnie Greenwell, PhD

Ruth Angela, an Amazon reviewer, writes:

“This book has everything explained, clearly and succinctly for the person looking for clarity about Kundalini awakening. I highly recommend it to anyone who has no idea what Kundalini is or what an awakening means. But it is also very useful for those who have awakened and need to fill in some basic facts and details about the phenomena.

I met Ms. Greenwell recently, and she has a deep and common sense understanding of this topic having had years of interviews with people who have been through this life-altering process. She lays it all out for everyone to understand with examples and a review of commonly asked questions. It could be a primer on the topic. The focus is on practical down-to-earth advice and information. The same information could be in some ancient Indian text, but to a Western reader it would be incomprehensible; Bonnie Greenwell has rectified this problem by covering the thousand questions one would have on this subject in simple straight-forward language. Her first book "Energies of Transformation" was a great help to me and many others who wanted to find out more about this topic. But this new book has condensed everything into a easily absorbed format that can be read both as informational and for future reference. Start here if you really want to get a clear picture of the phenomena of Kundalini.”

See it on Amazon.


This page was published on February 24, 2000 and last revised on June 4, 2017.


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