I have never consciously looked for mystical experiences, but sometimes they happen anyway.
In Eastern traditions, kundalini is described as a form of spiritual energy that lies coiled at the base of the spine. I have long been sceptical of any talk about ‘energy’ in the context of personal development or spirituality. My stock response is to ask what kind of energy the person is talking about. Is it electro-magnetism, for example? Has it been measured in any way? Then one day I experienced it for myself, unexpectedly.
In August/September of 2014, I attended a 21-day programme on an ashram near Bangalore, India. It was founded by Paramahamsa Nithyananda, known to his followers as Swamiji. I was the only British person on the programme, and didn’t know any of the other participants.
Swamiji asked us to carry out five purifying rituals each day which would maximise the effectiveness of what was to follow. Every evening, after the coursework, there was a ceremony known as darshan, which can be translated as ‘auspicious sight’. Swamiji sat on his golden throne. Then, one after another, each of us knelt in front of him, with our arms stretched out by the sides of our heads, our hands pointing upwards and our palms facing him.
By day five I was getting the hang of it. Then I suddenly noticed a slight tingling sensation in my fingers as he applied pressure to my various chakras, while sitting on his golden throne.
The next day things really began to happen. We did an exercise called Completion With Impossibility. I identified beliefs I had acquired about what was impossible for me, and the occasion on which I had acquired each of them.
Completion is one of Swamiji’s most powerful and accessible techniques. You identify a painful experience and then look at yourself in the mirror while you relive it, in order to relieve it. You relive to relieve.
As instructed, I looked at myself in the mirror a dozen times and relived each experience. That process seemed straightforward by now. However, Swamiji then said we needed to do a kriya or practice to remove the patterns completely.
We sat cross-legged on the large mats that lay on the floor. Swamiji joked that we should each sit on a separate mat, so ‘frequent flyers’ wouldn’t jump all over the other participants. He was referring – among others – to a young Indian man who had bounced up and down and then leapt upwards like a frog during previous darshans.
This kriya was based on pranayama – the yoga of the breath. Swamiji told us to breathe in through the left nostril and hold the breath as long as we could comfortably do so. Then breathe in further through the right nostril, then breathe in even further through both nostrils, before breathing out slowly through the left nostril.
We kept doing this for a long time. I started sweating and at one point the monsoon rain began beating down on the roof above us. I was sitting cross-legged on the floor, holding my front shin in order to remain upright.
At first both my knees began to vibrate a little. Within a few minutes they had begun to flap up and down as though I was in the middle of some yoga exercise. Except that all the movement was involuntary.
A little later the whole of my body began to shake. The closest experience I had ever had before this was sitting inside an airliner flying through turbulence. Maybe you have experienced it too. Everything around you begins to rattle and shake but all you can do is hang on and allow it to happen.
I experimented with holding my knees down and suppressing the movement in my body. That worked fine, but as soon as I let go it started again. I also observed my thoughts. They had continued as normal, which suggested that I wasn’t in some sort of trance.
Having come to the ashram to find out how to improve my life, I had also just experienced kundalini awakening first-hand. Oddly, it felt unremarkable after a while – sitting cross-legged on a mat while my body shook uncontrollably but quite pleasantly.
At the end of the session I felt sweaty and exhausted. I lay on my back with my knees in the air for a few minutes. Then I walked slowly towards the exit feeling strangely energised.
(Further information is at http://nithyananda.org)