Being a college professor means you have the summer off to indulge in little self-improvement projects. When the school year ended in 1985 I decided to follow the prescriptions given in my chi kung correspondence course from the Chinese National Chi Kung Institute in Moulton, Alabama, to arouse the bubbling springs or bring the inner fire to the brain. This is known as 'Tien Tao Chi Kung or Heaven's Way and corresponds to the Indian Kundalini. I'd been able to run the microcosmic orbit connecting the meridians and chakras to the spine both front and back with a single breath for about three years and was able to bend a candle flame to my bidding, so I thought I'd go for the big time. Ninety days of meditating as much as possible.
I set up a pad in the back porch and moved in a stereo tape player so I could meditate to ragas, Kitaro, or subliminals (which I recommend if you're nutso enough to try this method). My second wife Linda and her children would occasionally look out from the kitchen to see what I was doing. Since watching someone meditate ranks in spectator sports right down there with spider kissing, they failed to get involved. The back porch was my kingdom for the summer as long as I occasionally got up to eat, take them to the lake, and performed as a parent and husband. Other wise I sat cross-legged, listening to funny music with my eyes shut. After all, her first husband used to beat her and them. My activities seemed strange but harmless. They did their things and I did mine.
At this point in my development I was not particularly nocturnal so I always meditated in the daytime (my first error). I would hit the position for at least thirty minutes on waking and set my goals for the day. Some days I would get in an hour or two in the morning and another hour or so in the afternoon. About twenty days into it I began to see what appeared to be a vagina with a rather swollen clitoris floating in the air before me. I took this as a sign that the pineal and pituitary glands in the brain were rejuvenating and/or the third eye was opening. Some days I would sweat profusely as I meditated, which I regarded as a good sign because it indicated something was happening. It is not usual to break into a fever-busting sweat when you're being absolutely still, at least not in my mediocre athletic career. Sweating is both a means to cool the inner fire as well as a process of purification. That's why sweat lodges, saunas, and hot baths are appreciated. My body was starting to feel great and I was horny as a three-peckered owl. This is where I made my second mistake, which would eventually cost me this marriage.
Let me digress for a moment and set the scene. I weighed about 240 pounds, smoked a pack or more of filter tips a day, enjoyed wine with my meals, ate a lot of red meat, and preferred Rusty Nails (Scotch and Drambuie 50/50, no ice) as my daily libation. When I meditated I did not usually keep my tongue up, as I could not see how that could be important. I was not properly stretching my neck but had mastered holding my back erect. I was 41 years old, succumbing to a potbellied, sedentary middle age. The only redeeming factor was I worked out with my martial arts class once a week for an hour or two, which kept my reflexes quick and was restoring my body after eight years of being a scholarly, deskbound wimp.
I want to be perfectly clear that the kundalini is not a result of perfect asanas, ahimsa (nonviolence) and a vegetarian diet, which are logical progressions resulting from the experience but have little or nothing to do with attaining it. My practice was directed toward perfecting iron palm techniques, and I wanted enough voltage to shatter concrete blocks without effort or harm to myself. I certainly wasn't celibate and, until the first great disaster, Linda and I had a varied and active sex life, as we both considered sex the best form of exercise.
I was feeling like a twenty-year-old, semi-erect all the time. I decided to masturbate, put some porn on the VCR, and was beating off while standing. Suddenly a tremendous burst of energy ripped up my back and hit the base of my skull. The pain was so intense I fell to my knees. I wanted to vomit. The back of my neck began to burn along with my right elbow, which I'd injured doing stupid tae kwan do katas a few years back and then reinjured playing tennis. From that day for the next six months sex was not a pleasure, as from the moment of erection I'd become nauseated and every stroke was a race to see if I'd faint or throw up from pain. Orgasm was a relief, but attaining it was a superhuman effort. I tried to explain what was happening to Linda but she wasn't buying into it. Actions spoke much louder than words. All she could see was my struggle and, not having the highest self-esteem, decided I either hated making love to her or had taken a mistress and now found her repugnant. Fighting this kind of pain and keeping an erection was not easy. She asked for a divorce. I gave her the house, cars, set up trusts for her kids, and went adventuring.
Chi sickness or emerging kundalini problems weren't part of her perceptual world or mine. Fortunately Dr. Richard Grant, a political economist at the college who was taking my hoshinjutsu course, had read in the field of Ayurvedic medicine and recommended Mantak Chia's work to me. The techniques of Taoist esoteric yoga corresponded to the chi kung but had some additional safety factors built in such as stronger emphasis on keeping one's tongue up when meditating as well as reversing the direction of the energy occasionally when running the microcosmic orbit. I was eventually able to heal the damage done to the jade gates (energy entry points) at the base of my skull and return to a normal sex life but the damage to my marriage was irredeemable. It wasn't until after Linda divorced me and finally developed her own chi through transmission that she was able to swallow that whopper.
At this point there was nothing to do but press on. I continued my practice even though it was painful. Some part of me knew I had to continue or lose all that I felt 1 had gained. The spectral clitoral vagina still floated before me. I realized the cause of my problem probably also contained the cure. When I wasn't meditating I became an avid researcher in esoteric literature and transpersonal psychology. About forty days in, my body began to shake as soon as I hit the position that is often referred to as the half-lotus or sage seat. I have never been able to sit in full lotus with any comfort, and at this time my ankles were not stretched enough to hold in seiza for the required time periods. Once the shaking started, things really began to get strange. This was the beginning of bliss.
Now, I wasn't keeping a record of these events, as 1 didn't realize the importance of what I was doing. To me it was just a way to improve my martial art. I'd attended two of Stephen Hayes' Go Dai (five centers) seminars and been impressed by what I'd seen and done with the ninjas. It had also struck me as funny that most of the people I knew studied Eastern philosophy but did not practice what they were studying. Theirs was an intellectual, not a physical involvement. And to be quite frank, becoming a guru or Hare Krishna or cult member struck me as the ultimate in silliness. 1 had stayed away from the religious aspects as 1 was quite content being a failed Methodist and still feel that way except for occasional excursions into goddess worship. My concerns were purely technical and my expectations were to gain control over my body's electrical system. I can't give an exact chronology of the following events as they seemed not to be consecutive but concurrent. Anyway, what happened was totally unexpected.
About the middle of July, close to my birthday, the floating vagina turned into a tiny dancer of Balinese extraction and zoomed up to me on one foot and hovered in the air in front of me. I was flabbergasted. I was having hallucinations of Hindu temple whores? She stood on one foot with her arms spread wide wearing a metal breastplate, pointy helmet, and funny flared miniskirt. My impression at the time was this apparition was female and, for some reason unknown to me, was telling me to put more dance into my training. I perceived that the spread arms meant, "See, I have the big head, graceful movement is important." It wasn't until years later that I realized this was Shiva, the destroyer of the ego (or ignorance). My latent homophobia kept me from realizing the androgyny of this personage, and my ignorance of Hindu religion left me with no recourse but to watch this improbable vision as it watched me. I suspect we were both equally surprised. I don't know how long this went on. I was frozen in place for quite a while.
Years later when Suzanne and I were playing in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, I saw a statue of Shiva and this piece of the puzzle fell into place. Ah well, I missed my chance to speak with a god. Shiva's posture is similar to Hicho no Kamae (karate kid's white crane) in ninjutsu.
The next event was more physical. As I was running energy around the orbit and looking and smiling down into myself and shaking with energy, I saw a brownish-gold coil of powerful energy building at the base of my spine. It had a head like a viper and began to come up my spinal column. As it hit each vertebrae it would straighten and adjust it, throwing me from side to side. The feeling was of being slammed about but I never came off the zafu. This was terrifying, particularly after the penis-migraine-nausea hookup. I was lost. Nothing I had ever read prepared me for this. It was inside me. God damn these chi kung exercises! 1 could see it coming with my inner eye like a freight train coming up a tunnel, and when it reached the skull this time there was no mercy and no stopping it.
My head exploded. It was as if the top of my skull blew off and I was radiating up into a fountain of white light. Then I was white light. I wasn't just sitting on the back porch, I was part of the house and the yard and the trees and the birds and the grass and the cat and it all made sense from an evolutionary perspective as my consciousness rocketed out of Jonesville, Michigan, into universal ecstasy. Darwin was right. It's survival of the fittest, but fit has many meanings and everything is connected to everything on an atomic level; the whole has a spirit or direction that might be defined as God, or energy, or self/creativity if you're inclined in that direction. The messages I was getting made no sense in terms of good or bad. It was just here it is and you're part of it and it's part of you, and though you're a small part, you can affect the whole. Do your best as you're on your own. Krishnamurti describes a very similar experience as does Gopi Krishna.
As this experience was winding down, my life began to pass before my eyes as if I were watching a movie running backwards in slow motion. I got to watch how I'd screwed up important relationships and what lessons I'd learned or failed to learn in my interactions with others. Most of the important learnings took place when I was very young. Like the song goes, "Teach your children well."
The wildest memory was of being sperm. Even sperm has consciousness. How's this for a lesson: I was racing down a tunnel toward a pink light. I was part of a horde of little lights who were also me, and we were all trying to reach the big pink first. It was imperative, as the goal was attractive. The race was close and we/me were all going at top speed. I/me/we hit the pink first. Another we/me was right behind me by a millisecond. I watched it die with all the other we/mes as I merged with the pink. That's my first lucid memory. Now the lesson from this could be all organisms have consciousness and should be treated as part of the holy spirit. I think my particular interpretation ran more like winning is real important, which I suspect is the more usual outcome for men from this deep-seated universal experience. How one is raised would definitely reinforce either interpretation.
The memories stopped at conception, no past lives. No womb swimming. No birthing experience. When I saw the opening to the movie Look Who's Talking years later I almost fell out of the seat laughing. Since death is as universal as life, this memory cannot be sentimentalized into an argument against abortion. An ant has the same relation to intelligence or problem-solving. Sentience is not the same as existence. I can't buy into "every sperm is sacred," as my tendencies are definitely hedonistic. The food chain exists.
This whole thing was stretching to the limit what my first wife, Martha, used to refer to as "your fucking Zen Buddhist calm!" There weren't any stress management techniques for dealing with these life events. And the dance had only just begun. I was still locked in position, morning had come and gone as a still, small voice began to speak to me. "Oh, your neck hurts; well, look at your eyelids." I could see a holograph of my skull and neck bones as if it were an X-ray, except when I moved my head the holograph replicated the movement. "See the damage here. That's high school football, and this one, that's karate. Now stick out your arm, turn your hand over and shift your shoulder this way." The vertebrae slipped into place easily and a residual pain that I'd been ignoring for twenty years went away. "Now isn't that nice. Why don't you just let me take over. I know how to take care of this body."
Whoa, this was getting a little too strange even for me. I'd seen The Exorcist. What was going on now? Voices in my head! "Get thee behind me, Satan!" Which is one of Jesus's better puns when you know about the spine. Who do you call, Ghostbusters?
An interesting debate ensued as to who owned what. The id had now emerged and proceeded to show the learned personality which I still perceived as me what was what. "You think what you see is real, try this."
The back porch became a forest, my meditating pillow a rock. I could hear birds singing as the wind moved the branches of the trees. 1was naked, the sun was going down. "I'm your body," the voice said, "I process everything that you see, hear, feel, or do. You don't know what's real. I do." I was back on the pillow facing into the kitchen, considerably shaken.
"Look," I said, "I'm a college professor. For all I know, you're not even housebroken. You may be able to run this body, but how are your lecture skills? I have to feed my family. Let's make a deal. I mean we're both me. How can we merge?"
What happened next I can only describe as a fist being shoved through another fist, but it was taking place in my skull. My perceptions were going through some very interesting changes and my body began to change. Some of those changes are still going on today, which is about eight years later. As the inner voice quieted, I asked one more question. "What would you have done if I hadn't opted for merger?"
The voice grew large, seemed to come from all around me, and said, "I am a jealous God and will have no other gods before me! Obey me and live according to my custom!" A very interesting support for bicameral brain theory. Then it went, "If you didn't go for that, there is always something like this . . . I'm Xantha, a 10,000-year-old warrior from Atlantis. Allow me to enter through you and share the learning of the ages." That seemed to take care of channels. If you don't allow the learned personality (ego and/or superego) to die when you meditate, the id will try to fool you into letting it run the body. That was the last time "the spirit" spoke as a separate entity.
Chi sickness is a result of the body's inability to process higher energy or move it from place to place by the direction of the imagination. The Taoist traditions place great emphasis on wa (harmony). Moving the energy through the microcosmic and macrocosmic orbits accomplishes this mixing to help achieve inner harmony. As one's internal wattage increases it is often described as "inner fire" or "fire in the belly" since excess energy can be stored in the intestinal coil or hara. The object of Taoist meditation is to bring the fire to the brain and then through the rest of the body. Wherever the nerve synapses are not flexible enough to handle the voltage there can be considerable pain. Eventually the body will adjust to the energy if your practice allows you to move it. It is important to realize that chi moves most easily in circles and spirals. It is also important to know that the yang energy burns, while the yin energy cools. The cooling heals the burning. Running hot yang energy is easy for most males and many women. One imagines the cycle at first, but when the real thing begins you will instantly know the difference. Running cool yin energy is difficult as it is usually produced by the left side of the body, which right-handers allow to atrophy.
It took me years of study after going through the kundalini to get even sporadic control of cool energy until Suzanne Carlson mastered it while studying dance, acting, and celibacy in London. She called me from England and told me she had been running icy cold energy for days and it was scaring her as she couldn't get it under control. By the time I got to London she had figured it out and could contain the phenomenon. She had a lot of fun showing me how. Toffesse (who is described in the "Exchanges with Interesting People" chapter) could change from yin to yang on command but never could explain how he was doing it. Suzanne, being brilliant, articulate, and in touch with her body and spirit, was able to pass on this skill necessary for higher-level healing. I've been cool for five years now.
From 1986 through 1988 my body went through extremely painful sessions of what I refer to as rewiring. When the stomach rewired there was a period of three days that I could keep down no food or water. The pain was intense, but as all medical tests showed absolutely nothing, I knew I'd have to ride it out. I'd drink a glass or two of water to keep dehydration at a minimum and then run to kneel at the shrine of the porcelain god when it came back up. This was a continual ritual. Once when the urge to upchuck was upon me and I was getting out of the easy chair to make the scramble down the hall to the bathroom, my eyes turned off.
My immediate thought was, "Oh, no! I'm going to be blind!" I still had to throw up, so I crawled down the hall feeling my way as fast as I could. Being blind is one thing, barfing all over Linda's living room is quite another. As I fired into the toilet, feeling quite pleased with myself for conquering this first obstacle with my new challenge or handicap, my eyes turned back on. That has never happened since. But other interesting rewires seem to take place at odd moments when you've nothing better to do. Your whole body will eventually rewire and some parts are definitely not as much fun as others. Every place you've been seriously injured, had a bone broken, or taken some nerve damage will receive spe-
cia1 attention, as damage improperly healed often creates a block to the efficient flow of energy. Blocked higher energy burns! Those areas referred to as erogenous zones tend to hold one's attention when they light up. It never seems to happen when you're driving or doing anything dangerous. (It also seems to happen again every few years.) If you've managed to poison yourself, it can be much like an epileptic seizure. Your social mind shuts down, you sweat copiously, empty at both ends, and in minutes feel great. Not a pretty sight but better than being poisoned. I've had that experience three times. Chi allows you to drink enormous amounts of alcohol but the poison eventually wins.
Most of my students who kept their tongues up when running the orbits had much gentler experiences of the kundalini than I. A female diabetic in Fenton, Michigan, informs me her pancreas now produces insulin after being shut off for fifteen years. She went through some weeks of barfing and is now on soups and yogurt. Her name is Laura Butler, and she designs custom fantasy jewelry. She decorated my sword scabbard with Chinese-Japanese monsters that are associated with enlightenment.
It took me over five years to rewire the damage done when the first rush of kundalini energy hit the Jade Gates and couldn't get through to the brain. That area on the back of the head is always the first to inform me when it's time to visit the chiropractor or get back to my neck stretches. It seems to me the process is much easier if you're in good shape. I was not. I'm in much better shape now than I was in my twenties. When I went through the kundalini I was fat and degenerate; now I'm much slimmer and more circumspect in my diet. Suppleness is critical! Gopi Krishna almost died. Krishnamurti had relatively few problems (and hid his sexuality) but had the support of the Theosophist movement. Alexander the Great fell down and foamed from time to time. Hatsumi says he went through a period of grave illness where nothing he knew seemed to work anymore. He had to live on yogurt for eighteen months. Can you even imagine what that would do to a Grandmaster's ego? This can be dangerous if you miss some of the parts.
According to the transpersonal psychologists who research in this area, most of the people go through spiritual crises and the ones who have a full-blown kundalini experience tend to retire from society. I can understand why. Things get strange and you have no one to share your experience. Visual and auditory hallucinations or strange energy rushing through the body, were seldom discussed in my circle of friends. Prolonged altered states that do not go away are hard to explain when you do know what's going on! One kundalini survivor I interviewed went for more than twenty years without saying a thing about it until he met me, as he had no idea why he was the way he was, only that he was radically different in his perceptions and much smarter, stronger, and faster than anyone he knew. He did not even discuss it with his wife or family. He had constructed a very comfortable life but was without friendship.
The Pathway or routes to enlightened survival recommended by Sun Tzu are similar in attitude if not practice to the avadhuta. They allow one to be active in both worlds. Being fearless means no inhibitions. The enlightened invariably have a childlike earthy quality. When you first pass through the veil, there is a strong tendency to feel very superior to all the people you know who haven't done this. It shouldn't last too long. Your taijutsu skills may improve just from net dodging. Invisibility is more secure than invincibility, as you'll discover. The general population's expectations don't include this form of adventure as entertainment, and the elite do their level-headed best to stamp it out. Be careful.
People like to be the way they are and it is not for you to mess with them. You'll have enough problems dealing with what life throws at you. We're all in this together. Anyone is capable of doing chi kung to achieve the kundalini but there are definite dues and you will pay them. You pass through hell to achieve heaven. The Gods do indeed check you out. There are some very lively "concepts" or "archetypes" that seem to enjoy hanging out around you that can only be logically explained in religious terms and the presence of some rather atypical but archaic ideas. The best all-around general advice I found to go along with "Love thy neighbor as you would love thyself" and "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is this short list of maxims by the Gautama Buddha in his Sutra to the Kalamas:
Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard (or read) it.
Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations.
Do not believe in anything because it is spoken and rumored by many.
Do not believe in anything simply because it is written in your religious books.
Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.
After observation and analysis, when you find anything that agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.
Some of the changes since those days: I no longer follow a regimen of daily meditation but seem to be in a relaxed state nearly all the time. I no longer fear death or any other thing. I am absolutely convinced that if you kill another human being for any reason, you'll be back here. "Here" is not always what we think it is and your condition may not be optimal. (Dante could never have imagined a bag lady in the Bronx.) My senses have become very acute, particularly at night. I'm more empathic and on rare occasions telepathic, both of which I regard as an aid to compassion and a pain in the ass. I'm continually horrified by how people justify their treatment of each other. I have very few friends my own age, though most people seem to like me. I seldom get sick. I do occasionally get damaged, which 111 describe in the chapter on Screwing Up, along with other reasons your relation with the medical doctors can get to be high-risk. I weep and laugh easily. Major sporting events used to reduce me to an emotional moron as 1 would be literally swept up by the emotions of the crowd even though I seldom care who wins. I will only attend rock concerts with trusted friends. Music and crowds just amplify chi. I have a wonderful time.
I can affect others' energy fields at will. Anyone who gets within thirty feet of me can be affected with ease. My curiosity concerning the human predicament is boundless, but my interest in technology is medieval. Learning to use a Mac was a struggle, but I love computers now. Immediately after going through the kun-dalini experience I found it very difficult to read. A page or two a day was exhausting. I now read a book a week, but I used to read a book a day and once even taught speed reading when I was in graduate school. The spirit is nonverbal! Everyone I know who practices chi kung goes through a period of reading difficulty. If you like to read the skill comes back. Your taste in literature may change.
I no longer work for anyone I do not like, and I base that on feeling. (Goodbye to wealth.) Most of the religious writings with the exception of Patanjali strike me as poppycock. They describe the life, but not the practice that resulted in the life. Religious writers tend to gloss over the schizophrenia or epilepsy or other fun characteristics of being "touched by God" and not being able to bear the voltage. Only Gopi Krishna and Krishnamurti's descriptions seem to parallel my own, and I find it interesting that an agnostic Westerner following Chinese medical practice would have Hindu experiences. It is obviously biological and has nothing to do with culture, religion, or racial grouping. The only enlightened people I've met (and I can count them on my fingers) have been martial artists, a young Zen monk, healers, and the Dalai Lama. If you take offense at this, I will thank you to note my father was a Methodist minister on the World Council of Evangelism and I've a wide acquaintance of Christians of various stripe. My standards are primarily bioelectrical. Your standards are yours. I am not inclined to worship. 1 enjoy working out and beating up young people.
I continue to practice and teach the martial arts, as it is a non-religious and relatively easy way of passing on this knowledge. You have to do it! Reading about it is just looking at the map, or pointing at the moon. Good works may or may not teach you compassion. Sit zazen and learn to breathe using chi kung methodology, get into yoga to stretch out your spine and learn balance, go dancing and fall in love, and do something really scary for focus and hormones-real combatic martial arts, mountain climbing, performing arts, open sea scuba diving, hunting beasties with primitive weapons or humans, or hardest of all, make a new friend. All tend to focus one's creative potential and desire to live.
Arousal is critical to growth, change, and love. Most important, keep your tongue up. When you've finally got IT or merged with your nature, the commonest phosphorescent holographs on your eyelids will look like the Rose Window in Notre Dame, as well as other shapes alluded to in mystical records, such as the lotus rooted in the mud and floating on the water. It does not seem reasonable to me that the old mystical saw concerning "as the inside, so the outside" can be reversed by staring at mandalas, but the iconic similarities are probably meant as guides. One of the things that always annoyed me about the Rajneesh and others of his ilk was they had the order of the colors wrong.
The kundalini has legendary counterparts in Gothic, Greek, American Indian, Celtic, Chinese, Hindu, Japanese, African, Hawaiian, and other mythologies. This cross-cultural commonality strongly indicates it is a universal human experience. References to the snake wisdom or kundalini are usually designated as demonic or evil in Christian mythology referencing the Garden of Eden. It must be recognized, however, that the gift of the serpent was knowledge. It is knowledge that leads us to the life of adventure. Just as the spider has the dual meaning of creator of the universe as well as the web of illusion, the coiled serpent signifies the cycles of manifestation as well as latent power. Coiled around a tree or any axial symbol, the serpent represents the dynamic force or genius of all growing things. Genius means genii or spirit or kami (Japanese spirit of a particular place) and may also represent a skill. Associated with the tree of knowledge it is identified as evil by Christians, yet when associated with the tree of life the same serpent is regarded as beneficial. The horned serpent or dragon or serpent-wreathed head are universally regarded as symbols of fertility and creativity as well as an intermediary to the gods.
Kundalini as a means and outcome of mastering energy is an actual biological process that when observed objectively closely follows its mythic description. J. C. Cooper defines it as "the serpent which lies coiled at the base of the spine in the chakra known as the muladhara [the Japanese like hara]and which lies dormant until awakened by yogic and spiritual practices when it begins to ascend through the chakras [endocrine glands or Go Dai], bringing increasing powers into play, until it reaches the highest point in total awareness and realization. It is latent energy; unawakened being; the sleeping serpent power; the primordial shakti [creative female energy] in man. To awaken it is to break the ontological plane and attain the sacred Center: enlightenment. The symbolism cf the kundalini is associated with that of the serpent, or dragon, or spine, the world axis."
This is not trivial knowledge, nor is it evil, though enlightened common men have always been feared by the established order particularly if it has lost its Way. This is worth setting some time aside to attempt. My experience and observations lead me to assert that you should clean up your act before seriously starting the meditative process. It is also helpful if you have some interesting life experience under your belt or your IQ is well above average, as the gods are real when you enter the void and they will test your endurance. There is interesting work to be done.
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