“It’s important that we understand the complexity that accompanies the spiritual emergence process so we can recognize, support, and facilitate it, rather than pathologizing it, drugging it, or resisting it.”
Thanks to Tom Valovic for bringing the following article by Lissa Rankin, MD, to my attention. It takes me back to my first “flirtation” with kundalini, which was  in the early 90’s. I’d read books by Stan and Christina Grof (featured below) that brought my awareness to the existence of this mystical, mysterious power before my own awakening – thank goddess.
Christina had had a full-blown kundalini awakening during childbirth – quite an unexpected initiatory experience for her! – though it was this very experience that “launched a thousand ships” viś a vie kundalini becoming known in the West, starting with Stan Grof’s residency at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA. (The history of Esalen is a great story in itself, btw.)
Christina’s book on her experience is The Stormy Search for the Self, which was the first book I’d read on the phenom, and I was so thankful to have this intro info “on board” when K began stirring in me!
When my kundalini started activating the first time, I was living in Colorado and seeking to connect with SEN – the Spiritual Emergence Network (cited in this post) – but they had already essentially evaporated, apparently due to lack of funding (typical!).
Kundalini was not something one could discuss with an ordinary psychotherapist (and it still wasn’t when my K awakened a second time – this time in a huge way – approximately 10 years later; I had a few sessions with a woman who wasn’t even engaged enough to research the word online to get some IDEA re: what I was talking about… which marked the end of that “therapeutic experiment”).
To know that something like SEN had actually existed but had already fallen apart was a harsh and heartbreaking discovery. One step forward; two steps back…
(Good to know it’s been revived and now exists in this form for awakening humans.)
My one confidante during that first round with kundalini was one of the ministers of my church in Denver, who actually had some personal experience with K, herself. For instance, she shared with me that all her life, one eye’s pupil was fully dilated (think David Bowie) until her kundalini “came along” and repaired it.
I could go on about those days but my purpose here is to share the following by Lissa. She had alluded to this experience when it initially happened, but felt protective of it (or of Dennis) then and so did not share to the extent she goes into here.
As an aside, Lissa’s mother just passed on a few days ago, which was very hard for Lissa, bless her and bless her mother’s continuing journey.
Loads of resources re: kundalini follow; if you or anyone you know is dealing with kundalini, this should be required reading.
Love to all in this era of divine awakening,
Kundalini & Spiritual Emergency: What Doctors, Psychologists, and YOU Need to Know
November 11th, 2017
By Lissa Rankin MD (with Ted Esser PhD)
Before January 2014, I had never heard of the term “kundalini” other than vague references to kundalini yoga, which I associated with people wearing white turbans and breathing hard. But on my daughter’s 8th birthday, I experienced something that my medical knowledge never prepared me to understand. I was with my new friend Dennis, an agnostic scientist who was drawn to me after we met at a holiday party at the Institute of Noetic Sciences because of our shared curiosity in energy healing. We weren’t doing anything particularly interesting at the time. We weren’t meditating or doing yoga or having sex or doing breathwork or using any mind-altering substances or otherwise seeking out any sort of mystical experience. We were just sitting upstairs on the floor of my bedroom with my roommate April, when something very curious happened.
We had already experienced some weird moments that day. April, who is quite psychic, came upstairs to the living room and said, “Something’s coming.” The sky suddenly turned green and the wind started howling, and two seconds later, Dennis, who was driving in his car on the way back from Big Sur, texted me, “Something just started.” I showed the text to April, who said, quite nonchalantly, “See, I told you.”
Fast forward a few hours, after my daughter’s birthday dinner and bedtime stories, and Dennis asked if he could hug me. I said yes, and when he hugged me, we went into some kind of time warp because according to clock time, almost four hours passed in what felt like 15 minutes. During that time, Dennis and I shared experiences that were foreign to us both—like telepathy, unusual somatic experiences, sudden memories of past lives we had shared together, and a deep heart awakening.
Then something started happening to Dennis’s body. During our time warp, April had left, but Dennis suddenly felt the need to have her present. I went down to check on her, but she was sleeping. Fifteen minutes later, Dennis said, “Go get April. She’s awake now.” I walked into her guest house, and she was sitting bolt upright in bed, looking dazed in her penguin pajamas. I told her a gay man was requesting our presence in my bedroom, and as if in a trance, she followed me in silence without questioning the bizarre request.
When we got back upstairs, parts of Dennis’s body, mostly his extremities, became rigid, as if all the muscles were tensing up at once, and the smaller muscle groups were firing individually, almost as if he were having a seizure, each little muscle contracting and relaxing rhythmically so that I could feel ripples when I put my hands on his arms. He was scared and physically uncomfortable, and he was pleading for us to help him. He kept saying that some sort of energy was running through his body. “My body is responding to you girls!”
I didn’t understand at all what was happening, but something in me guided him to lie down on the bed and April and I helped him move this mysterious energy through the stuck parts with breath and intention. He felt the energy move out of his rigidly erect thighs, moving into his pelvis and then his belly, and then his heart before shooting up the back of his spine, as if flying out the top of his head.
The physical discomfort instantly disappeared and he experienced a state of bliss, which he described as a full body orgasm, even though we were all still fully dressed and no genital contact had been made. He stayed in that bliss state, experiencing a feeling of Oneness with the Universe and Divine ecstasy, until he fell asleep. The next morning, he woke up with a psychic awareness he had never experienced before and contact with spirits that did not have bodies, spirits that wanted to “channel” through him.
We tried to turn on the lights in the house, but we discovered we had no power. Apparently, we weren’t alone. The power had blown out all over Marin County. We joked that Dennis had short-circuited the whole network, but who knows? Maybe it wasn’t a joke.
The next morning, I took Dennis to meet my mentor Rachel Naomi Remen, MD, who listened patiently to our wild story and simply said, “Let me give your minds something to calm them down. Go look up the words “kundalini” and “siddhi” on Wikipedia.” So we did.
What we read about kundalini and the siddhis (spiritual superpowers) from the yogic tradition sounded consistent with what we had experienced spontaneously, and we were almost embarrassed to discover that something that felt so unique and mysterious was written up as this ordinary phenomenon on Wikipedia.
Over the next nine days, things grew increasingly bizarre, and Dennis was losing touch with reality in a way that looked very much like the kind of psychosis you might see in someone with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
He wasn’t eating or sleeping. He had moved out of his house and was shacking up in a hotel room near me because he wanted to be close to me all the time. He was delusional and seeing visions and hearing voices that told him things that sounded crazy. He couldn’t seem to control his psychic awareness and was leaving strangers in the coffee shop in tears by telling them things he couldn’t possibly have known about their childhood sexual abuse.
I told him he had “psychic Tourette’s” and jokingly called him Dennis the Menace, but he responded with hostility. “I am speaking directly from God and you have no right to silence me!” He was becoming more and more grandiose, feeling like he was Jesus and had access to infinite Universal Knowledge, and the things he was telling me about how I was sent here from the Pleiades to save the world were getting more and more inflated. Things were spiraling out of control, and we clearly needed help.
I barely knew Dennis, but I felt an inexplicably soulful intimate connection with him, and because this had happened in my presence and I’m trained as a medical doctor, I felt responsible for getting him help, especially since he’s Dutch and didn’t have any family or friends around to help him out.
I reached out to his ex-husband and discovered that he had no history of mental illness, no prior bizarre behavior, no previous psychic or psychotic episodes, and only a vague interest in meditation, but otherwise, no particular spiritual leanings.
Seeking out help from those who understand these sorts of mystical experiences better than I do, I found myself back at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, where IONS President Cassie Vieten and their lead scientist Dean Radin had first introduced me to Dennis. Dean introduced me to the work of psychiatrist Stanislov Grof, MD, who wrote the book Spiritual Emergency: When Personal Transformation Becomes A Crisis. Stan was doing psychedelic research at Johns Hopkins University until psychedelic drugs became illegal, then he continued his research on nonordinary states of consciousness using Holotropic breathwork.
In 1973, he became a scholar in residence at Esalen Institute, during the firestorm of the Human Potential Movement, where he witnessed many people having breakdowns/breakthroughs as an aftermath of these nonordinary states of consciousness. He called this “Spiritual Emergency” because it met many of the criteria for psychosis, but appeared to be a spiritual phenomenon, something that, if treated appropriately, led to higher levels of consciousness and improved functioning compared to before the crisis, whereas the kinds of psychotic episodes associated with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder often spiraled into longer-term dysfunction.
Dean also introduced me to one of Stan’s former students, Ted Esser, PhD, who was involved with the Spiritual Emergence Network (SEN), which was originally started in 1980 by Stan Grof and his wife Christina in response to the lack of understanding and respect for psycho-spiritual growth in the mental health profession.
In the past, SEN was connected to clinics at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology and the California Institute of Integral Studies where someone experiencing Spiritual Emergency could be treated non-pharmacologically by mental health practitioners with an understanding of spiritual matters. SEN now functions as an online referral center for those seeking support with spiritual emergence and emergency issues from transpersonal psychologists familiar with the process. There have also been a handful of inpatient facilities, but all of them had run out of adequate funding and were no longer functioning.
If there had been an inpatient facility specializing in this condition, I would have admitted Dennis on a 72-hour hold, because he had devolved to a point where I felt he was a danger to himself and others, but I did not want to subject him to anti-psychotics in a locked ward. Intuitively, I sensed that what was happening to him was different than the kind of psychopathology I experienced during my psychiatry training, but I didn’t feel qualified to help support him alone. So I called Ted Esser, who helped me through the crisis with Dennis, and soon after meeting him, I became Ted’s spiritual counseling client. During this time Ted began working remotely with people in Asheville, NC who opened an inpatient clinic for spiritual crisis called the Center for Spiritual Emergence.
Three and a half years after this experience, Dennis is thriving and happy. In case you ever feel called to visit the Sacred Valley, he now runs a beautiful guest house for spiritual seekers in Pisac, Peru, helping people integrate and digest some of the spiritual experiences that can throw people for a loop in Peru, such as ayahuasca journeys.
Ted, Dennis, and I all feel that it’s important to raise awareness about kundalini, spiritual emergence, and spiritual emergency, because very few psychologists or psychiatrists I’ve met have ever heard of such things. In 1994, the DSM-IV listed “Religious or Spiritual Problem” as a diagnosis and “Qigong Psychotic Reaction” as a particular manifestation of it (the Chinese term for it is Zou huo ru mo—read about it on Wikipedia). This particular diagnosis was apparently included in the DSM-IV because it was noted that people practicing Qigong sometimes had an unusual reaction that sounds, by its definition, very similar to some sort of “kundalini process” where something goes wrong. The DSM-5 has expanded upon this in a section called “Culture-Related Diagnostic Issues.” We think it’s imperative to bring more awareness of these issues to Western psychiatrists and psychologists who have not been taught about them.
Ted Esser is a wealth of knowledge about esoteric spirituality and transpersonal psychology, and he has been a wonderful mentor and friend to me as my journey down the rabbit hole of spirituality has gotten more and more mysterious. I asked Ted if I could interview him about kundalini as a way to raise public awareness about something that is happening more and more frequently out in the mainstream, beyond the safe havens of yogi masters and ashrams that are experienced in knowing how to support people through a process like this, since it’s possible that what happened to Dennis could happen to you, your loved one, your patient, or your client.
It’s important that we understand the complexity that accompanies the spiritual emergence process so we can recognize, support, and facilitate it, rather than pathologizing it, drugging it, or resisting it.
Entire books have been written about kundalini, and Ted wrote a whole PhD dissertation about it, so this will be a very limited overview, but we hope it will at least help educate doctors, mental health providers, and anyone who is experiencing kundalini or a spiritual emergence process personally or with a loved one.
Q&A with Ted Esser
Q: How do we accelerate the spread of awareness of kundalini in the mainstream discourse?
Kundalini needs to be described both in secular, spiritual, and Western religious terms in order to meet people where they are. We need to demystify and normalize kundalini in the West within the fields of transpersonal, integral, humanistic, and other forms of psychology, other sciences, and various additional avenues of secular discourse. A few examples of describing kundalini within Western-inspired frameworks over the years include the work of Stuart Sovatsky (transpersonal psychology), Itzhak Bentov (general science), Gopi Krishna (Western perspective & Hindu) and Philip St. Romain (Christianity) among others.
Q: What is kundalini?
Briefly speaking, kundalini can be thought of as a reservoir of prana (Sanskrit: “life-energy/life-force”) that is located in the area of the perineum. This subtle bioenergy, as Western researchers have called it, is experienced as a spiritual or divine energy during an initial kundalini awakening, but is not necessarily experienced as being spiritual in nature prior to this—in other words, intensified experiences of prana can feel unusual, but quite mundane.
The term “kundalini” comes from an evolving Sanskrit terminology—its 5th century BCE roots denote the name of a snake-deity meaning, “bowl or water-pot.” Thereafter, the term’s use evolved into a feminine-gendered deity that had the shape of a circular, serpent-like ring or bracelet, shaped like a coiled rope, and was associated with Goddesses like Durga, for example. Kundalini, as we understand it today, found its expression in Hatha yoga in about the 15th century. There is no single word meaning “kundalini” in the English language.
Kundalini is a very complicated subject. It can be helpful to briefly describe the differences between “kundalini arousal” and “kundalini awakening.” A kundalini arousal (known in Sanskrit as pranotthana—heightened life-energy) is temporary—from a few minutes to several weeks—and it does not always have the fundamental, paradigm-shifting, self-realization effects of a full awakening, yet it can be very powerful, even life-changing.
In a true kundalini awakening the energetic blockage near the perineum has been permanently opened, initiating a (usually) longer “kundalini process” during which the fundamental non-dual nature of the individual’s relationship to their and the cosmos’s innermost reality is subjectively and dramatically revealed.
The process can be relatively smooth for some, but for others, it can often be very challenging, mentally and physically, especially for those who are not properly prepared or well-trained. For some of these people the process can become very disruptive to their professional and personal lives, gyrating from being debilitating painful to shockingly blissful for an extended period of time.
An important key to understanding the phenomena is appreciating the extremely varied spectrum of how the process can manifest. One day is not necessarily like the next.
At this point it’s important for us to de-pathologize kundalini’s reputation in some quarters by explaining the ideas behind the phrases “kundalini process” and “kundalini syndrome.” Kundalini is not an illness, but when various conditions are not right, the process can trigger various physical or psychological maladies, known as aspects within the “kundalini syndrome.”
So, it is more accurate to discuss the signs of a kundalini awakening or process versus the symptoms of a kundalini syndrome if the psychological or physical indications are present. To add some complexity, the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive—one’s experience of them can shift back and forth.
Kundalini syndrome can show up somatically in ways that have been referred to in some communities as “shamanic sickness,” where often atypical physical manifestations show up in the body as hard to diagnose physical illnesses or pains that can morph from one place or type to another—appearing and disappearing, sometimes in seemingly anomalous, hard to diagnose ways.
Another potential manifestation of kundalini syndrome can be the triggering of what is called a “spiritual emergency” or crisis. This takes many forms, such as prolonged anxiety, or more seriously, in for example, referencing Tibetan integrative psychiatry’s understanding, there can be blockages in the subtle bioenergetic channels that connect the heart to the brain. The symptoms in this example can mirror what is sometimes diagnosed as bipolar or schizoaffective disorders. Western transpersonal psychology has identified ways to diagnose, and at times, successfully work with these manifestations.
On the other hand, a smooth kundalini process catalyzes a “spiritual emergence,” where a person’s ability to sense their surroundings in fundamentally new ways occur, facilitating a paradigmatic shift in their self-understanding, including how one experiences nature and other beings by way of such things as clairvoyance, telepathy, increased synchronicities, heightened dreams, etc.
The process clears the way for psycho-spiritual and physical healing, manifesting in more and more spontaneously loving, self-actualized behavior. To be clear, a spiritual emergence process is not always triggered by prana in ways that are obvious to the experiencer.
Q: Why are we seeing more and more people experiencing this phenomenon?
There is a long history of the suppression of information about how to experience kundalini or unusually intense expressions of the Holy Spirit in the West, especially among women and the working and middle classes. Globalization, with its cultural mixing, information sharing, and novel experimentation and adaptation of kundalini practices have gone hand in hand with the increases in the numbers of reports about the phenomena that we are seeing in recent decades.
There is also the understanding that subtle bioenergy can be knowingly or unknowingly transmitted to another person (Sanskrit: shaktipat)—this may be playing a part in the increased numbers as well.
Q: How would someone know if they were experiencing a kundalini process or kundalini syndrome?
An important initial step is to as quickly as possible contact a trusted and specifically-trained spiritual teacher, mental health provider, and doctor (both naturopathic and allopathic). They may be able to refer you to other very important health care providers like an acupuncturist, an Ayurvedic doctor or a chiropractor, for example. [Resources are listed later in this interview.]
In the course of my doctorate work, I created a Kundalini Status Questionnaire that transpersonal psychologist Stuart Sovatsky and I used to help identify if someone in the study had experienced a kundalini awakening, had pranotthanic activity, or had other kinds of related exceptional (spiritual) human experiences (EHEs). The information found there (and in a slightly abbreviated form, below) can provide an important part of what is needed help guide a trained practitioner to determine how to go forward with a client, patient or student who has had a dramatic opening of this sort. The questionnaire can also be used as a bullet-pointed listing of some of the possible risks and benefits associated with entering or continuing practices that aim at catalyzing a kundalini awakening and process.
It is also vital that the experiencer take on a very active role in the course of their care and process. Becoming as educated as possible about this very complex and nuanced topic has important, positive benefits for their ongoing experience. Going over this list below as a layperson can be helpful, but does not replace working with someone who is well-trained in the field. Some items are more important than others; in addition, there are many nuances to be found in the combination of the items listed below to take into account.
That said, some of the signs to look for in order to evaluate if you may be having a kundalini awakening (in addition to what has been outlined above), are included in the list below.
Roughly speaking, the greater number and more dramatic the experiences that are found in the following five categories, with an emphasis on the energetic items found in categories 1 and those experiences found in category 5, the higher the likelihood one is having a kundalini awakening, rather than pranotthanic activity. You can access the research list below—it was derived from Ted Esser publications.
- Feeling rushes of energy, like electricity, fire or warm liquid flooding the body, especially in the area of the spine or the core of the torso (usually moving up the body in some way, but it can also move down it or back-and-forth).
- Dramatic rushes of pleasurable (or painful) warm (or hot or cold) sensations that feel like a thick liquid (or energy or fire) flowing in the body that may sometimes cause sweating or shivering.
- The sensation of a snake (or snakes) going up the spine, the body, or out of the top of the head.
- Sensations that can start in the feet and legs, or pelvis, and move up the spine (in a straight or wavy pattern like a caduceus), up to the top of the head, over and down the forehead to the nose and face, down to the throat, and terminating in the abdomen (it may stop anywhere along the way or skip around).
- The sensation of ants crawling or air bubbles traveling up the spine or elsewhere in the body.
- The dramatic sensation of subtle energy centers (chakras) or channels (nadis—like energetic blood vessels) opening up—it may feel ecstatic or cause a light or heavy burning sensation.
- Pulsating pressure, pain or blissfulness in the sacrum.
- Involuntary body movements (kriyas).
- Feelings of tingling, itching, burning or tickling on the skin or in the body.
- Visions of lights, symbolic images, flames, spiritual guides.
- Everything in the field of vision becomes illuminated, scintillating, vibrating (perhaps causing everything to seem to be connected).
- Feeling that one’s nervous system is overstimulated.
- Inwardly hearing the sound of chanting, celestial music, Sanskrit words, sacred sounds or tones, bees buzzing, flute playing, waterfalls, birds, thunder, kettle drums, animals.
- Performing spontaneous sacred rituals (that you may have never seen before).
- The spontaneous occurrence of breathing patterns: e.g., rapid breathing, shallow breathing, deep breathing, or the prolonged retention of breath (pranayama).
- Increased or decreased metabolism.
- Gastrointestinal disorders, nausea, diarrhea.
- Nervous energy, hyperactivity.
- A marked increase or decrease of appetite and/or thirst.
- Recurring pains, stiffness and/or tension occurring anywhere in the body, but especially in the back, neck, head, stomach, or big toes.
- Numbness, restlessness, cramps or pain in the limbs.
- Headaches and/or unusual pressure-spot sensations in the head (it can also feel like wearing tight headbands or a tight helmet).
- Increased sensitivity to sound, light, smells, tastes.
- Increased EMF (electrical) sensitivity.
- Increased sensitivity to being around other people (with the perception that you are picking up their moods, general disposition or thoughts).
- Unusual smells emitting from the skin.
- Alterations of sleeping patterns.
- The tip of the tongue spontaneously moving to the palette or backward in the throat.
- Tasting a sweet liquid secretion coming from inside the throat area.
- A popping sensation in the sinus cavity above the palette.
- Performing spontaneous, involuntary hatha yoga postures (asanas that you may have never seen before) or sacred dancing.
- Performing spontaneous, involuntary yogic hand movements (mudrasthat you may have never seen before).
- Performing spontaneous, involuntary yogic contractions (bandhas) in the anus, solar plexus or neck.
- Involuntary, spontaneous chanting (or mantras), laughing, crying, deep sighs or yawns, animal-like utterances, glossolalia, or speaking fluently in a foreign language you are unfamiliar with.
- Alterations of eating patterns.
- Intensified or diminished sexual desires.
- Spontaneous erections (Painful or non-painful) or ejaculation—sometimes without outside or conscious provocation.
- Orgasms caused by dramatically flowing energy (for men, it may not involve ejaculation).
- Feelings of weightlessness or heaviness.
- Eyes spontaneously rolling up in the head (often followed by visions).
- The feeling that one’s body boundaries are expanding.
- Spontaneous ecstasy.
- Racing (or just the feeling of racing) or painful heart problems.
- Temporary loss of eyesight.
- The sensation and/or knowing that there is a vastly intelligent force behind any of the above items.
- Physical problems that are atypical and have proven difficult to diagnose and treat because they are not consistent with known illness and that may they come and go spontaneously, including activation of latent illnesses (the diagnosis may be psychosomatic.
- Feeling large, even overwhelming waves of compassion, joy, bliss, sexuality, gratitude, forgiveness, harmony, and/or unconditional love (which may feel unrelated to any personal issues).
- Feeling overwhelming waves of anxiety, anger, alienation, guilt or depression (which may feel unrelated to any personal issues).
- Intensification of unresolved psychological issues.
- Fear (or fearlessness) of death or insanity.
- Unusually precise and/or ease in concentrating your attention—or experiencing confusion and difficulty concentrating.
- Spontaneous transcendence of reactive patterns, addictive behavior, problematic habits, social conditioning and/or egoic habits.
- Panicky feelings.
- Mood swings.
- Dramatically awakened creativity, inspiration and/or productivity.
- Heightened sensitivity to the moods of others.
- An awakened harmony or desire for harmony with the earth and/or nature.
- A spontaneous increased interest in spirituality, religion and/or philosophy.
- Spontaneous altered states of consciousness, including trance states or mystical experiences.
- Increased paralysis during meditation.
- A general heightened awareness.
- Thoughts may speed up, slow down or stop entirely.
- Experiencing a paradigmatic shift of awareness, often with an interest in sharing new spiritual experiences with other people.
- Feelings of grandiosity or increased feelings of high self-esteem or self confidence.
- Impulsive thoughts or actions based on mystical or intuitive sources.
- Highly confident decisions based upon intuitive sources that turned out to be “good” or “bad” decisions.
- Spontaneous heightened awareness about your inner nature or psyche.
- A feeling of preparation for some future event and/or a coming together of one’s life events that may involve others’ benefit.
- Spontaneous feelings of detachment and/or abiding in a “witness consciousness.”
- Increased effortless patience and satisfaction with “what is” despite outer circumstances.
- Either gentle, moderate or intense levels of trance-like states that bring peace, joy, and waves of bliss (these may occur during or after meditation, before going to sleep, while dreaming or after waking up, or spontaneously at other times).
- Increased vivid or lucid dreams or visions, sometimes with unusually meaningful, geometric, and/or spiritual content; also there may be meaningful dreams with snakes, volcanoes, earthquakes, bombs, lightning, fire, water, animals or other spiritually meaningful content
- A diagnosis of an atypically manifesting mental illness, marked often by an awareness of one’s changed condition while it was happening (“Am I going crazy?”), while largely remaining functional, cooperative, and interacting well with others, rarely acting out.
Heightened instances of:
— Parapsychological Experiences
- Spontaneously acquired new or enhanced anomalous healing abilities
- Spontaneous out-of-body experiences
- Spontaneous remote viewing
- Increased synchronicities
- Spontaneous bilocation
- Spontaneous channeling
- Spontaneous psychokinesis
- An increase in other paranormal events, psychic abilities (siddhis)
- An increase of experiencing other unusual phenomena such as seeing spirits, etc.
“High Level” Mystical Experiences
- Experiences of the Divine (while in a light, energy, void or in everyday life)
- Experiences of divinities, avatars, and/or mythological figures
- Absorption of consciousness into profound states of unity and peace
- Nondual realization or abiding (unitive consciousness)
- The absorption of consciousness into mystical states of unity and peace (sometimes while bathed in light, energy or a void)
- The absorption of consciousness into a universal energetic matrix
- Clear perception of existential or cosmological ideas that match reports from well-regarded mystics across traditions and through time
- Experiencing physical existence as positive, serene and dream-like (possibly experiencing the dream-like aspects as being problematic or unsettling)
- A profound sense of I Am That or a pure and open consciousness with no specific identity
- OBEs or visions into what one perceives be higher dimensions, heavens, and/or alternate universes
Q: As health care providers, we don’t want to spiritualize real mental illness and miss necessary treatments for people at risk, yet we also don’t want to pathologize something that might be a genuine spiritual experience. How can doctors and psychologists learn to tell the difference between spiritual emergency or kundalini syndrome and psychopathology?
This requires extensive training because of the many factors and nuances involved. There is an online course you can take with David Lukoff, here. David is one of the researchers responsible for making the changes to the DSM-IV in the area of Spiritual and Religious Problems. The American Psychological Association recently published an article on the subject called, “Spiritual and Religious Competencies for Psychologists” that Cassi and David contributed to here. You can contact David through his website here.
Q: If some of our readers are struggling with a kundalini process or kundalini syndrome, what can they do to get help?
Spiritually-trained psychologists, psychiatrists, spiritual counselors and integrative medicine practitioners experienced in working with kundalini can be found at the Spiritual Emergence Network. Other organizations working in the areas of spiritual emergence, crisis, and kundalini assistance and research include:
Q: Are you available for personal consultation if anyone wants to do spiritual counseling with you directly? If so, how can they reach you?
Yes! They can read about some of my work and contact me through my website. Thank you for the opportunity to be in touch with your readers!
A Final Note From Lissa
I just saw Dennis this week after several months of being apart. We sat on my front porch on a peaceful sunny day, eating salads and reminiscing about how intense things got almost four years ago. The air was cool and still as we touched our fingertips together and smiled. Dennis reached out to hug me, and as we came together, we could both feel the energy begin to rise between us. I pulled away and Dennis laughed. “Yeah,” he said. “Let’s not go there.”
As we said goodbye, I commented about how still the air was. For years, we’ve always joked about how we could tell when “Hurricane Dennis” was coming over because the wind would whip up and lash about. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky or a wisp of wind as we said goodbye. Right as we hugged one last time, the wind picked up, and we burst into giggles.
After Dennis left, I went for a hike up Mount Tamalpais, and as soon as I hit the trail, I saw something that started me. A bolt of jagged lightning flashed across the sky, something that rarely happens in Northern California, especially in mid-September. Next thing I knew, the whole sky was alight with lightning. The next four hours ushered in the most dramatic lightning show I’d ever seen in the 25 years I’ve lived in California. For three hours, no rain accompanied the lightning. It just flashed and sparked with electricity about every three seconds.
The shamans say they know when someone is being initiated into the role of shaman because they are struck by lightning and survive. Not wanting to prove my shamanic powers (or find out I don’t have them), I got the hell outta dodge and climbed back off that mountain, where I sat in a dark room and watched the lightning show. I couldn’t help having the grandiose thought that perhaps all this cosmic electricity had something to do with Dennis and I reconnecting. The synchronicity that I had been writing this article with Ted as the storm occurred wasn’t lost on me.
Maybe it was a coincidence, or maybe it was a Divine Wink. Either way, a smile pulsed through me.
Ted, Dennis, and I pray this serves anyone who might need grounded, practical guidance as you navigate a spiritual emergence journey.
May you be blessed by your experience,
PS. You might also want to watch this TEDx talk Psychosis Or Spiritual Awakening
About the author:
Lissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician on a grass roots mission to heal healthcare, while empowering you to heal yourself. She is the founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and healthcare providers, and the New York Times bestselling author of the books Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself (2013), The Fear Cure (2014), and The Anatomy of a Calling (2015).
Lissa blogs at LissaRankin.com and created the online community HealHealthCareNow.com. She is also the author of several other books, a speaker, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, and an avid hiker. She lives in the San Francisco Bay area.