Spiritual Emergency

The following article is from the Summer, 2011 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.

FOR MANY OF US OUR MOST SUBTLE ENERGY-WINDS and the potency of the deeper forces within the body remain dormant. The unleashing of these forces in what is sometimes described as a spiritual emergency can be a shocking and extremely disorienting experience. The kundalini awakening, as it is called in certain Eastern traditions, is an expression of the sudden reopening of the threshold that is created between our conscious life and the forces latent within the body/psyche. This is usually experienced as the sudden uprising of energy through the central channel in such a way that it radically alters our perception of reality. When this process happens in a sudden and uncontrolled way, it is often very disturbing and extremely hard to integrate, hence the notion of spiritual emergency. This experience of something akin to a psychotic episode is little understood in Western clinical psychology, and is therefore often misdiagnosed. When it is seen in clinical psychiatric terms, a kundalini awakening can be inappropriately treated. Fortunately there is a growing recognition of this process and the need for skillful intervention and support.

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To gradually awaken the body requires that we do not separate our spiritual practices from the body, and instead recognize that the body is a central vehicle in the process of awakening.

When we have a natural, gradual, and deepening relationship to the energetic processes of the body underlying much of our psychological and emotional life, then this potential emergency need not occur. Instead, the body is awoken gradually rather than suddenly. To gradually awaken the body requires that we do not separate our spiritual practices from the body, and instead recognize that the body is a central vehicle in the process of awakening.

When the body is ignored or overlooked, disembodied practice can be perpetuated, and there will be a lack of awareness of, and sensitivity toward, the energetic processes within the body. Not understanding the body's energetic processes can give rise to aches and pains that are often a reflection of what the Tibetans call wind (Tib. lung) disorder, in which the energy-winds become blocked or out of balance.

Practices such as yoga, chi gung, and the Tibetan kum nye help to clear and balance the energy-winds, thus enabling a greater capacity to stabilize the mind in meditation. They also enhance sensitivity to, and awareness of, the natural movement of the energy- winds within the body.

adapted from Preparing for Tantra by Rob Preece

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