Editor’s note: For a short time in 2000, Bonnie Greenwell wrote a column for this website called “Kundalini Quest” in which she answered readers’ questions about Kundalini. Here is the column for June 2, 2000.
A reader writes:
Three years ago, I had a powerful Kundalini experience which lasted two years. When it began, I was practicing intensive meditation and breathing exercises while living in seclusion in a cabin. Since then I have never been the same. I truly suffered a mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual breakdown — a major spiritual crisis.
To suppress the crazy body sensations I experienced during my Kundalini awakening, I had to use antidepressants. I am still on Paxil, 25 milligrams a day. This medication along with a deep committed yoga practice and psychotherapy saved my life. A part of me knows in my heart of hearts that I suppressed my experience and sooner or later I will have to go back into the gates of hell to integrate the blissful states that I experienced with the darker states: creepy-crawly sensations, heat, major digestive problems, a feeling of merging with the divine, scary dreams, hypersensitivity, acrophobia, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and several other complex and frustrating physical manifestations of awakened Kundalini.
My main concern is an obsession for sex. I know it has to do with the contracted sexual energy that I shut down in my sexual center during my Kundalini experience. For some reason my spirit is longing to blow the psychological lid off this suppressed energy (stored psychic material and some unresolved childhood issues). I have had to stop meditating because it activates this crazy, out-of-control, suppressed sexual energy (it feels like I have been raped), trembling, vibrating, out of control... the list goes on.
On June 25th, I am going to south India for six months to teach yoga to children in an orphanage. Then I would like to travel and perhaps meet a master who might be able to assist me with my problems.
I would really appreciate any advice you can give me.
Your letter brings up so many issues that sometimes occur with an unprepared awakening that it is difficult to address them without asking you lots of questions. But I decided to include most of your letter because it can help others see some of the things that can go wrong. The best I can do is offer some options and let you decide whether they apply in your case.
First, there is no reason why this process has to be so terrible and frustrating if you return to it. You will not necessarily go through the misery a second time. Many of the problems you mention can be due to a history of emotional trauma such as abuse or violence that has never been worked through with therapy. Usually when people have PTSD (post-traumatic stress syndrome), an issue from their past is awakening, and Kundalini is not the direct cause.
Problems also sometimes result from the state of the physical and subtle bodies, which can be weakened by lifestyle issues including diet, a history of drug or alcohol use, sexual promiscuity, and great personal stress. In order for the Kundalini process to work well and eventually bring you into a state of peace, you must live a balanced lifestyle free of abuse and serious mental stress. As your life and mind become more harmonious, the process will take you into deeper states of awareness and awakening.
After the body is healthy, you can try yoga practices, especially breathing practices, to direct the energy flows and strengthen the body to manage them.
Intensified sexual feelings can occur for several reasons, and you have choices for dealing with them. Most yoga systems recommend giving up sexuality, at least during the intense phases of this process. This allows the Kundalini energy to flow upward through the central channels, chakras, and head, leading to the opportunity for mystical experiences. If the flow is forced downward it disrupts and prolongs the process of awakening. Energy can get stuck in the lower chakras, possibly leading to intense sexual energy and compulsion. Once the flow breaks through into the heart chakra or higher this is rarely a serious problem. You are getting too much stimulation. Learning correct breathing practices can help you bring this energy higher and release the pressure on the sexual organs. You need a good teacher who understands Kundalini yoga and classical yoga and not someone who encourages you to act out sexually. If a teacher suggests that you be sexual with him to relieve the problem, run in the other direction.
This said, I have to admit I have met people who released energy sexually a few times with no great harm coming to them. This is one way to release pressure. However, if sex becomes compulsive and addictive, it diverts your spiritual process into a dead end. This is not a criticism of enjoying sex, only a message that obsessive sex doesnt support spiritual attainment. Also, sex with several partners, or the wrong partners, can damage your nervous system and energy field and raise many new problems in the Kundalini process.
Sexual sensations are normal when Kundalini is stirred in the lower chakras, and sexual release is healthy under many circumstances.
But if you want your intense Kundalini rising to lead to mystical experience and spiritual awakening, you must make a critical decision. You can choose to move this energy upward through disciplined practices and commitment to a spiritual life, or you can decide to simply release energy and stay where you are.
I make no judgement here, and I am not implying that a sexual life with a loving partner is incompatible with a full spiritual life. I am speaking of a stage of this process which is very stressful for some people.
You should also know that in many people who have problems with sexual energy and flashes of rape, there is a repressed history of sexual abuse. This is why the energy gets stuck in the wrong channel, and why such images occur. I advise such people to get therapy with someone who really understands the abuse issues, even if the therapist knows nothing of Kundalini. This will free the emotional and physical and energetic blocks so that the awakening process can mature in a healthy way.
Finally, I want to tell you that your desire to serve others can be a great healing in this process. It is a time-tested method of integrating spiritual awakening in both Karma Yoga and the Christian tradition of service. Putting your heart into non-attached work for the welfare of others can help the energy shift into the heart chakra.
I cannot offer you specific names of people who specialize in your problem in India, but I can tell you that if you go to a classical yogic institution such as the Bihar School of Yoga in Bihar you can learn the balanced way to develop your subtle body system. My friend Dr. Dina Nath Rai at the Kundalini Yoga Research Institute in Lucknow may also have classes that can help you. You may also wish to contact Dr. Joan Harrigan, a psychologist in Tennessee who works with a Kundalini Yoga and ayurvedic practitioner, Swami Chandrasekharanda, in the U.S., Rishikesh, and Europe. They offer intensive programs for people with strong spiritual motivations to get the Kundalini process in proper balance using a classical Kundalini science from the Kundalini yoga tradition. Her website is Kundalini-care.com.
Because everyone responds differently to different teachers I want you to know I am not making any guarantees, just suggesting some directions in which you might seek help.
Best wishes to you.
Copyright 2000 Bonnie Greenwell.
Bonnie Greenwell, Ph.D., is a transpersonal therapist and author of three books about Kundalini and awakening.
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.”
This page was published on June 2, 2000 and last revised on June 4, 2017.