I wanted to ask about some developments that have occurred in my practice recently, and which have left me excited, intrigued and confused about how to proceed.
I've been practicing in different traditions (Zen, Vipassana, Gurdjieff) since around 2001. About a year and a half ago I attended my first ten-day Goenka vipassana course, and found it to be the most intense and rewarding practice of my life till that point. About halfway through the course, I began having (what I subsequently learned are known as) kundalini experiences, specifically:
- A rush of energy up my spine and out the crown of my head, including the sensation that this flow was trying to pull me "up and out" through the crown.
- The ability to focus my attention within the body in a way I had never experienced before, as a sort of beam of attention “lighting up” any part of the body on which I chose to focus, with distinct, tingling physical sensations being felt on that part. This beam could also “pass through” different parts of the body, so that, for example, if I shone the beam of attention from my heart area to the neck, I would feel it both on the neck and on the chin, as it passed through the neck to the chin.
- The sensation that this flow of energy was painfully collecting and uprooting little "hooks" embedded throughout my entire body, and then carrying them up and out through the crown. This created both physical twitching sensations in the areas that were being cleared out, and a feeling of continuously having to burp as the hooks flowed up the throat area to the crown.
- After these hooks were cleared out, the area of the body from which they were removed was left feeling very clear and airy, with the exception of my navel. Once the hooks started getting pulled out from there, they just kept going and going, in a painful and seemingly endless flow.
At first I was very excited and intrigued by all these developments, and actually spent a good part of the last few days of the course exploring and experimenting with them. At a certain point however I also became quite anxious about all this, specifically at around two in the morning on the last night of the course, when the painful flow of uprooted "hooks” coming out of my navel and up through the crown wouldn't stop, and all I could do was just lay there and try to find a position that would allow the stream to flow as openly and painlessly as possible. If I was in the wrong posture, these hooks would either create a lot more pain in the navel area, or would fail to go up and out through the crown, but instead get collected elsewhere inside the head, creating pressure and pain there.
A couple weeks ago I went on my second Goenka retreat and had pretty much the same experiences, except for the anxiety, as described below.
I asked two assistant teachers in the tradition about these experiences, and their answer was basically to let the flow of energy come if it comes, and don't fret if it doesn't, and above all maintain equanimity in all cases. In other words, basically that it's just another sensation to be aware of and equanimous towards – don’t get caught up in it and start wondering what it is, what it’s doing, what I should do about it. This advice helped, and there was a lot more equanimity and acceptance of the flow, including its painful aspects, on the second retreat.
However, I can't seem to drop these major questions of: What is this energy? What are these painful hooks getting pulled out? Is this process the physical manifestation of the sankharas being uprooted, as Goenkaji describes? And what about the endless hooks getting pulled out from my navel – the only theory I could come up with is that this is the store of accumulated sankharas from previous lifetimes? What is the place of all this in vipassana, and in the Buddha's teachings in general (because it's not mentioned anywhere in either Goenka or Mahasi style vipassana from the little I know of)? All I know is that it's too fascinating, exciting, powerful, frightening, loaded and mysterious for me to just let it alone and observe it as if it were like all the other, ordinary sensations. (And it’s not like all the others – it’s a sensation that comes in and sweeps the others away!)
Recently, in search of answers to these questions, I've come across material about kundalini energy, and have found that descriptions of it line up with my experience quite precisely.
But kundalini is a concept from yoga, and yogic practices such as pranayama which are intended for work with kundalini are specifically mentioned by Goenkaji as something that should not be mixed in with vipassana.
On the other hand, from what I've read about kundalini, what I've been experiencing represents the awakening of a whole latent system of energy, spiritual development, etc. I also read that meditating on your crown and allowing yourself to flow up and out of it - a pull which I experienced very vividly before reading about it – can lead to enlightenment. I also recently read , in which the blogger describes his experience of attaining stream entry, in which he described the same experience of getting pulled up and out of the crown by this energy.
So I'm sure you can understand why I find it quite difficult to simply put this experience aside, observe it equanimously if comes, and nevermind if it doesn't
I have also found in the last couple weeks that if I keep my attention on the crown the same sensations begin to a lesser degree, and I am quite confident that if I were to keep it there long enough I could reproduce the experiences I had on the retreat. This leaves me confused about how to proceed – should I continue dedicating practice time to focusing on the crown, in order to continue practicing with this energy flow, which I have read is so beneficial? Or just continue regular vipassana practice as usual, as advised by the AT in the course, and pay no mind to the energy flow? And if the latter, wouldn’t I be missing out on something huge?
So I would really love some guidance about what's going on, how all this fits specifically into Buddhist and vipassana practice, and how to incorporate it in a way that will facilitate my spiritual progress in the best, most effective, most skillful and beneficial way possible.
Any advice offered would be very much appreciated!
Many thanks and metta,