What Lies Beneath

As with many, part of my spiritual awakening dealt and still deals with difficult feelings on occasion. Here are a couple of posts on that. I hope investigators will find them helpful. My initial question is, why should such feelings so often be a part of spiritual emergence, and what are the keys to dealing with them?

The way I’ve come to see this, from my own and others’ experience, there are two stages to emotional cleansing. The second stage is the inevitable one, coming up naturally as the awakened subconscious genius aims to complete itself and join with the infinite. But it’s difficult to get all the way through that second stage without having laid an initial groundwork, and that groundwork is the first stage.

For those who haven’t had the pleasure, is it really necessary to go into extended preparation for something like this? Well I think so yes, at least a little extended. That second stage can be more or less tough depending on method — the ultimate hard one was perhaps Gopi Krishna — but I don’t think anyone gets by sans weirdness. The emotional side generates self knowledge and is well-described by Glenn Morris. I sometimes call it the ‘PN20 process’ because he sketches it on page 20 of Path Notes. Here’s a shortened version of what he says.

Let us first suppose that what we consider our self seems to be more a collection of masks… We might discover that our impulses towards achievement and compassion spring from a fear of failure and feelings of helplessness. As we delve deeper we may be forced to discover… anger, resentment and envy… and allow ourselves to open even further to find shame, yearning, terror, sadness, and other dark emotions… finally… we find another layer of calm connectedness…

(The full thing is available here for free and many may find it worth their time.)

Why are these ‘dark emotions’ always present? The word ‘trauma’ is probably unwelcome, but I think it’s at least part of the answer. It doesn’t sound very spiritual but consider the following for sec:

1. Trauma often awakens kundalini in and of itself. See Kason, 2008 for examples. Strong emotions naturally accompany this process. Closeness to death, in a controlled or less controlled context is also a predictor of spiritual awakening.

2. Peter A. Levine Ph.D., trauma therapist, lists many direct parallels between kundalini and trauma relating it (correctly IMO) to the first chakra. Trauma recovery can initiate surges of joy reminiscent of kundalini kriyas.

3. Trauma and awakening have physical symptoms in common. Bodily shaking, for example, is a common side-effect in kundalini and ch’i kung, also an important resource in trauma recovery (suppressing the shakes buries and prolongs trauma), and a direct spiritual method for some, see for instance Kunlun, or Bradford Keeney’s shaking medicine. It allows energy to penetrate the system.

4. Trauma seems as universal to human beings as spirit. In Psychosynthesis it is sometimes known as ‘Primal Wounding’ and is the basis of the life quest to heal. I think we’d be wise to believe Stanislav Grof on the trauma of the birth experience itself as primal.

5. Trauma doesn’t only awaken kundalini but is also directly responsible for triggering psychic experiences. Psi anecdotes often take place surrounding traumatic death or fearful moments telepathically conveyed to close family, for example. Buhlman has a whole chapter on OBEs during traumatic situations (battle or rape or giving birth.) Trauma is thus bound up with the altered-states potential of human beings in general.

I could go on, but the pattern seems clear, and if you awaken shakti herself it starts to become obvious there is a real reason for these connections, though hard to express. I believe it is to do with worldview-survival. As a matter of fact, on the widest possible level, the only thing that can really survive, or that we worry about dying, is a worldview. The ‘masks’ mentioned by Glenn are bound up with worldviews and worldviews are bound up with survival, yet real living means altering and breaking through them. Trauma thus shares something in common with altered states, Milton Erickson hypnotic inductions, many paranormal experiences, and all zen koans: it is hard to cognitively process. The symbolic map of the world is broken through and we experience some territory.

We know a lot more now about how the nervous system responds both to trauma and to kundalini. Tao Semko talks usefully about the vagus nerve as the physical correlate of central channel transformation in the kundalini experience, where Peter Levine points up that nerve as central to the experience and healing of trauma. It all fits together very well. This is the anatomical scenery of emotion and it is transformed by spiritual experience.

Talking of difficult emotions, guilt or shame are often irrationally present with trauma which is why I’d be careful with some religious interpretations. That element has always been in and around human spiritual experience but maybe not always for good reason. Guilt-inducing deity stuff could all be just a holdover from early tribal survival laws in a world where trauma was hard to heal. If the birth process is traumatic and leads to shame, criminalisation of sex becomes possible. Rape and abuse victims often feel guilty for no good reason at all and there are perfectly rational reasons for them to cease doing so, which they in fact do when the trauma clears up. Almost all infant trauma and upset wrongly “feels deserved” to the child, or “natural”. Worth thinking about.

With all this trauma and weirdness around, a keynote of stage one becomes safety. Setting up a home place of security, a base within from which the weirdness can be dealt with gradually on the journey to freedom. Ultimately kundalini rising is blissful and involves complete comfort within oneself.

Points have been known for centuries and are confirmed in modernity

As to how that safe home base is developed, I’ve mentioned plenty of stage one skills previously, and they are basically ways to shift mood. There are many more than I’ve tried — people tend to settle on what they like. I always like acupressure and there’s Jin Shin Jyutsu or Shiatsu which derive from the same theories. The six healing sounds go back a long way in Taoism and work to shift stuck ch’i in different organs and areas of the body. Being able to use such things profitably, regularly and reliably gets people’s bodies used to the idea that they don’t just have to live with any bad emotion that comes up, and that’s how the base is built.

Movement is very useful to change state. Ordinary stretches and workouts seem to help many, others will opt for yoga or t’ai chi etc. It doesn’t have to be in any way complex. I love my ch’i kung forms. Getting used to the wonderful cushioned/floaty feeling of having done a good round of ch’i kung starts to get one’s system feeling it has more options. A bad mood will not survive and ch’i will build and harmonise. Shifting can also come from improvised movement and expression. Developing relationships with music, poetry, etc. that works to shift in the direction of peace can be good. Slow or completely tempoless music can often be worthwhile which could mean anything from Handel Largos to Max Corbacho.

Ba Duan Jin -- classic qigong

It seems simple, but bear in mind ch’i kung (or indeed yoga) does have testing that shows real and often profound effects on the nervous system. These modalities are all ancient and have been repeatedly used to clear energy and prepare spiritual aspirants for millennia. The religious can add prayer to the list.

When meditation itself is thrown into this mix things get really interesting. The evidential literature on sitting meditation is very rich indeed. Even this ageing summary book (which needs a third edition, someone please commission it!) is pretty unequivocal for a pure-science document. I doubt I’ll ever quite understand how anyone can afford to be without the improvements in reaction time, perceptual skill, concentration, relaxation, memory, intelligence, empathy, creativity, and self-actualisation, all as measured objectively, in exchange for twenty minutes a day on one’s ass! Not to mention the effects on blood chemistry and pressure, hemispheric sync, and a couple of dozen other physical indicators. Subjectively the peace and sense of coming home that accompany the initial achievements of mastering the social mind are very welcome. Most of the other stage one skills can act as meditations in themselves once you have the idea.

Frankly most people who get into meditation seem to enjoy it a lot anyhow, and I suppose there’s not much more to say, other than the usual caveat of testing for oneself. It matters to click with a particular method much more than where it came from. There is no truth to the ‘one right way’ approach.

So it’s the combo of meditation with the other mood-altering stuff that amounts to what I’d call stage one. It does alter a person, or rather, it shows a person they can alter themselves. Which is very beautiful when it all clicks.

A final elaboration is Glenn’s special technique, the so-called ‘Secret Smile’. Hypnotists would call this a daily retrieval of positive resources. The following description may be helpful to meditators. Simply, it’s about bringing positive states into the feeling mind and saturating the system with them. Glenn’s classic states are relaxation, fun, love and achievement. (Others can be added as the practitioner desires, based on what they want to actualise.)

To get resources flowing, the person thinks of a time when that resource appeared and someone else was with them to confirm it — ie., someone else felt the love in return, recognised the achievement, etc. (That corroboration prevents narcissistic fantasy). In a meditative state, saliva is then allowed to gather in the mouth. The occasion is brought vividly to mind with the feeling building strongly, and then the actual circumstances are forgotten whilst the essence of the feeling is allowed to remain. At this point one can actually run this feeling all through the body as an energy, catch it on the tongue, mix it with the saliva, swirl it around a bit, and swallow it. This is then repeated for the two or three other traits.

This tends to lock the positivity in place and lay the groundwork for being able to deal with what the second stage will throw out. Anyone wanting to know reasons for the saliva stuff will have to wait for my own understanding in a couple of posts’ time; in the meanwhile call it a food-style signal to the subconscious, which it also is anyhow. But in short, building up good feeling and being able to shift into it from any ordinary or less pleasant state, repeatedly, is the ticket, plus overcoming the basic social mind with meditation as a prep for seeing how much more there is to reality. Probably anyone can imagine the cumulative effects and how this helps with the darker stuff later (or even immediately if you’re long-term depressed as so many seem to be.)

A final point here is that although the stage one shifting of mood and mindset is not the big universalised altering of state we associate with mysticism and enlightenment, it still is altering state, on a personal level. And some of the shifts can be very interesting. That makes it a good habit to get into for anyone wanting to shift realities on a larger scale later. Keeping a diary is recommended.

Stage two takes it a step further, but that’s for next post.

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4 responses to “What Lies Beneath

  • AngelaN

    This… Just this… What a great series of posts. Really… Synchronicity has been ruling my world lately, so I just had a brain orgasm reading your posts.

    I am dealing with Kundalini since 2005 and also happen to be familiar with the works of Levine, EMDR, Scaer, etc. Tao Semko was my KAP instructor and being the hyperskeptical jerk I used to be, if it wasn’t because of the fact that his explanations about the vagus nerve played well with Porges’ theory I’d still be allowing kriyas 24 hours a day and living like a hermit. Instead of that, I am back in medical school, training in Gestalt therapy, my social and family life are better than ever, etc.

    Just wanted to say that somehow we have arrived to the same conclusions on how to deal with feelings, if we can rally separate them from the rest of the process.

    Regarding trauma, I think it can be a VERY BIG part of the answer. In my case, Kundalini helped me recover memories of the trauma, and also provides the necessary kriyas to shake’em out…. Or, better put, integrate them.

    The paralels between what K is doing to me and the trauma recovery process are many, at least from a purely theoretical point of view…. But after watching recorded sessions of somatic and other trauma therapies, i have realized it just can’t be a coincidence. They’re so much like some of the kundalini powered weirdness episodes I experienced in the beginning, that it just confirms it.

    Also speaking from experience… I also agree that just letting emotions out might not be enough, specially if early trauma [resulting in some degree of freeze response, tendency to dissociate, etc] is at play. Could it be that secret smile provides what a traumatized ego in development didn’t get enough of?

    Other things that I have found helpful are systemic [like IFS, dealing with family mobilizes lots of energy] and Gestalt therapy [provides tools to work with subpersonalities, potentiates the witness state]…

    I also think that, to a point, primitive reflexes integration, somatic education [Feldenkreis comes to mind] and bodywork could substitute yoga/t’ai chi.

    Great blog… Gotta read past posts.

  • Jason Wingate

    Angela how cool is that… anytime I give someone a brain orgasm i will pat myself on the back. :) (Says he making it sound like it happens so much,)

    if it wasn’t because of the fact that his explanations about the vagus nerve played well with Porges’ theory I’d still be allowing kriyas 24 hours a day and living like a hermit. Instead of that, I am back in medical school, training in Gestalt therapy, my social and family life are better than ever, etc.

    Excellent! This stuff is definitely allowing people a way out of the box. I’ve not taken KAP but I know they really work at making all worldviews welcome and it sounds like that’s paying off… I was surprised at a recent Semko video which implied some student are holding a non-ch’i worldview because it just never occurred to me. But it’s very good thinking actually, why limit this to ‘believers’?

    Yes k let me (or required me to) recover trauma and a big thing came out which maybe I’ll find a way to write about sometime… and no we can’t separate emotions from everything else, except conceptually in order to limit post length!

    Could it be that secret smile provides what a traumatized ego in development didn’t get enough of?

    Yes it possibly could IMO…

    I didn’t mean my lists to be exhaustive, have not much experience with Feldenkrais or Gestalt but I’m sure you’re correct. I hope there’s a lot of ways I don’t know about yet. What’s “primitive reflexes integration”? :)

    Welcome!

  • AngelaN

    Hi Jason.

    >>Excellent! This stuff is definitely allowing people a way out of the box. I’ve not taken KAP but I know they really work at making all worldviews welcome and it sounds like that’s paying off… I was surprised at a recent Semko video which implied some student are holding a non-ch’i worldview because it just never occurred to me. But it’s very good thinking actually, why limit this to ‘believers’?

    I will search for that video… The whole chi thing was the thing I struggled the most. Specially when I started perceiving what could only be *chi*, LOL. I definitely agree it’s too good to attract only esoteric people.

    >>…and no we can’t separate emotions from everything else, except conceptually in order to limit post length!

    Just realized how biased I am by my experience. Well, there’s many people looking for a way to bring meditation into their lives, and whoever is playing with those things in the open gets a lot of questions. But how do you tell a skeptic, or a person that just wants to get the benefits of meditation according to what he read in the newspaper… That the most effective and balanced approach might be the one who takes into account the Kundalini phenomenon, and the fact that emotional issues probably will pop out?

    Yep, everybody’s responsible for oneself, but still… It amazes me how the whole thing is swept under the rug in mainstream psychotherapy, self help magazines and the such. We are prompted to talk about chakras without really knowing what we are talking about, but god forbid we talk about the side effects of meditation.

    >>I hope there’s a lot of ways I don’t know about yet. What’s “primitive reflexes integration”? :)

    Just wanted to point out the fact that using different things, we’ve found ways to face the same things. Even my list is redundant, i.e.: somatic education possiblities deal with primitive reflexes, even if they do not specifically talk about it.

    Primitive reflexes are reflexes present in healthy infants during the first year of life, and disappear during normal baby development. Some of them are important for survival, others have to do with bonding with parents [which is also important for survival]. The disappearing of reflex is considered a developmental milestone. When they’re active later than they are supposed to be, it usually means that the baby has an atypical nervous system [has cerebral palsy, neurodevelopmental disorder, etc]. Mainstream medicine usually considers only two situations: a reflex either is present, or not. However, many very people from fields as different as optometry, bodywork, child psychology and also medicine, have realized that many people with vision problems, anxiety, autism spectrum, poor posture and lack of coordination get better when they work with their reflexes through physical exercises.

    It definitely was my case. I haven’t had the time to really explore the subjet, but I’m sure that lack of integration of those reflexes can be a consequence of trauma [in the broad sense] exposure in early infancy resulting on the freeze response, in a susceptible infant… Treat those reflexes, and you help get rid of trauma’s self perpetuating circuits and many of the psychological issues related with them. It plays well with the trauma model, and all body psychotherapies derived from Reich’s. Makes a good theory, at least xD

    • Jason Wingate

      Ah, with you on the primitive reflexes.

      Yes, there are whole ecosystems developing under the rug by now from all the good stuff swept under it! As far as how you tell people, I think you can go a long way without encountering certain things, so I tend to just smile knowingly and wait until they are desperate to know. :) A certain percentage will want to join us in our cosy whispering wood under the rug sooner or later…

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