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Consciousness, Kundalini Yoga & Body Development

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In this paper I hypothesize that the so-called practices of sahaja ( innately-arising ) Kundalini ( ultimate creatrix originating at the spine's sacral base) Yoga (and cross-tradition similars, e.g., Judaic davvening, Tibetan tumo heat, Chinese tai chi, Islamic zikr, Quaker quaking, the whirling of the Dervish, etc.) constitute auto-developmental movements and bodily maturations consistent with those of intrauterine gestation, infant movements, and teen-aged puberty.
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  Consciousness, Kundalini Yoga & Body Developmentby Stuart Sovatsky, PhDCalifornia nstitute of ntegral Studies, San !rancisco, C Presented at Brain, Consciousness, Neuroscience ConferenceChennai, India, March 9, 2001 (this scholar's work was sponsored ! the Infinit! oundation, Princeton, N#$ %hat is called &oic de)elop*ental+ action of the od! inwhich reason takes no part and which does not oriinate as an idea sprinin in the *ind%o speak si*pl!, !ois perfor* actions with their odies, like the *o)e*ents of children#nanesh)ar, 19-., p102  bstract In this paper I hypothesize that the so-called practices of sahaja ( innately-arising ) Kundalini ( ultimate creatrix srcinating at the spine's sacral base) Yoga (and cross-tradition similars e!g! udaic da##ening $ibetan tumo heat %hinese tai chi Islamic zi&r ua&er ua&ing the hirling of the *er#ish etc!) constitute auto-de#elopmental mo#ements and bodily maturations consistent ith those of intrauterine gestation infant mo#ements and teen-aged puberty! +lthough these practices' are typically learned by rote mimicry of standard Yoga poses breathing exercises moral guidances or meditation techniues according to the tradition and contemporary clinical reports they can emerge endogenously-animated by prana or Kundalini as it ere--as the ,th century adept nanesh#ar notes abo#e! I assert that these Yogic &riyas or de#elopmental actions (and cross-tradition similars) constitute hat might credibly be termed postgenital puberties of the neuroendocrine system and thus the matured embodiment of citta the light of consciousness itself in #arious yogically-defined energies and secretions. ojas #irya auras amrita!-soma (the substance of primary orship in the /ig 0eda) among them! +s such Kundalini Yoga pro#ides another context in hich to consider consciousness-body interacti#ity through future 12/ studies of the acti#ated spine and perhaps e#en the biochemical analysis of body fluids of Kundalini yogis in &eeping ith those already underta&en by 3c%lelland 4 Kirshnit ,5678 /ein 4 3c%raty ,5598 /ein 3c%raty 4 +t&inson ,55: on sali#ary immunoglobin + as ell as reju#enation melatonin studies by ;ierpaoli (Klatz 4 1oldman ,55< p! =5) and the >ational Institute on +ging (?2) >un 2tudy on reduced incidence of +lzheimer's and other degenerati#e diseases attributed to the spiritual lifestyle of this population! ntroduction  +ccording to the theory of human de#elopment proposed in Kundalini Yoga Kundalini is the name for the guiding impetus in embryological de#elopment that uic&ens its acti#ity as the neural groo#e forms the rudiments of the spinal cord as blastulization and gastrulization of the fertilized egg manifest! In contemporary terms it might be termed a meta-*>+! @hen the fetus is fully-formed Kundalini--hich is traditionally gi#en a mothering appellation--seuesters Aerself at the posterior node of the fetal spine (the muladhara cha&ra the root center ) and becomes dormant! $hereafter the more general life energy of prana is said to guide human physiology and maintenance-le#el groth! @hen groth is especially rapid prana enters a heightened condition called pranotthana ( uplifted intensified life-energy ) as is #isible in the glo of infants pregnant omen the purported glo of saints and during genital puberty as pranot-thana matures the indi#idual into his or her on fertility and thus adulthood in the biological sense!Yet Kundalini Yoga claims that further stages of human de#elopment affecting the neuroendocrine system (and consciousness) in particular are our natural birthright but ill only manifest hen the indi#idual's life acti#ities-his or her ays of expending bodily energies-are in alignment ith dharma! In this so-empirical of body-inclusi#e spiritual traditions the positi#e results of one's Yogic practice implies that one has been li#ing a dharmic ay of life! Yet as e shall see such positi#e results li&e pregnancyor teenaged puberty engender difficult maturational challenges as part of one's progress! +s physician and yogi Bee 2annella noted in his boo& Kundalini. ;sychosis or $ranscendenceC 1  $issues are torn blood #essels se#eredDthe heart racesDthere is moaning cryingD+ se#ere injuryC>o only a relati#ely normal birth! $he description sounds pathological because the symptoms ere not understood in relation to the outcome. a ne human being! E+ man'sF body is sept by muscular spasms! Indescribable sensations and Ee#enF pain run from his feet up his legs and o#er his bac& and nec&DInside his head he hears roaring soundsD suddenly a sunburst floods his inner beingDAe laughs and is o#ercome ith bliss!  + psychotic episodeC >o this is a psycho-physiological transformation EKundaliniF a rebirth process as natural as physical birth Ethis timeF the outcome Eis hoe#erF an enlightened human being! (2annella ,57< p! ,)  +nd just as Greud chose to name the fundamental de#elopmental force libido or yearning so too does %hapter 7 #! ,, of the Hhaga#ad-gita--as personified in the ords of Krishna *harma#iruddho bhutesu &amo 'smi bharatasbha! ( I am the  passion E&amo desire yearningF in beings that is aligned ith uni#ersal la! ) +ccording to Greud this yearning is experienced as food hungers eliminati#e urges and foremost sexual desires based in genital puberty the hallmar& of biological adulthood! Kundalini Yoga merely reopens the matter of human de#elopment hereby the spine hypothalamus hypoglossus pinealand cerebral lobes are seen as capable of undergoing puberties ith all the alterations in physiology identity and existential life purpose and e#en mortality itself that ere attendant to genital puberty but no ith a more spiritual emphasis!In its efforts to be culturally-inclusi#e the +merican ;sychiatric +ssociation no includes the %hinese correlate to Kundalini acti#ity of i-gong psychotic reaction and disorders of dhat jiryan su&ra pramehaand shen&ui (#arious spiritualendocrine maturation disorders hich according to medical-psychiatric theories in the subcontinent and in %hina relate to Ein my termsF the postgenital puberty noted belo) in its *iagnostic and 2tatistical 3anual -I0 +ppendix I!$hese postgenital puberties as I term them are specifically the internal mudras ( delight-gestures ) &non as &hecari shambha#i and unmani mudras and related Yogic processes such as pranotthana Kundalini urdh#a-retas (postgenital maturation of endocrine secretions) anahata-nad ( spontaneous de#elopmental utterance ) and sha&ti chalani ( mo#ement of charismatic force! ) $hus postgenital &ama or desire can be understood as the yearning for truth 1od lo#e enlight-enment etc! hile the internal mudras are the physiological manifestations of progress or maturation toard such aspirations hen dharmic life supports the body enough to engender such manifestations or perhaps #ia a &ind of sudden triggering #ia a dramatic life e#ent (near-death experience extreme grief inspiring moments etc!)or sha&ti-pat ( charismatic influence Haptism by fire in %hristian terms) an interpersonal energetic effect of the so-matured on others! +s e shall see #ieing the psycho-physical phenomena of Kundalini Yoga as puberties helps resol#e #arious dilemmas in transpersonal de#elopmental theory particularly regarding the relationships beteen sexuality and spirituality the body-consciousness nexus and beteen the ego (hat Greud explicitly called the genital primacy ego) and the 2elf (or Huddhist no-constant-self or 2oul)! Gor in the long and challenging prepubescence that follos genital puberty and particularly in midlife--ith its onderments about a true identity and any purpose to life beyond personal sur#i#al ealth and sexual pleasure--spirituality can deepen or for some is born for the first time! $hus the concerns of the adolescent of sex career affiliation and identity are often replicated at another le#el of sophistication from midlife on!$he psychoanalytic reduction of spirituality to the ambiguous product of sublimation must certainly be uestioned if spirituality is to be seen as rooted naturally in the body! $he ungian #ie of a purely psychically transformati#e alchemy under-appreciates the role of the body and must also be referred to deeper endogenous roots if spirituality is to escape the terminology of processes and techniues! J#en the Yogic and meditati#e practices must be rescued from such superficial enframements! In Kundalini Yoga spirituality is considered a natural body-positi#e aspect of humande#elopment not a deri#ati#e of sexuality a set of techniues practices or mere doctrinal beliefs! Aoe#er radical the bodily phenomena of Kundalini may seem at first they pro#ide us ith a ay to substantiate such a claim! +nd although transpersonalist 3ichael @ashburn concludes in $ranspersonal ;sychology in ;sychoanalytic ;erspecti#e that>o one &nos Emy emphasisF for sure hy the first half of this journey Eegoic maturityF is completed by almost e#eryone and the second half Eego transcendence and spiritual-poer embodimentF by onlya fe!!!! $he path of transcendence may be a path that is still under construction! It may that is represent the future of the species a future into hich only a minority of indi#iduals ha#e #entured! (@ashburn ,559 p! ,6) 2   + uic& sampling of those commonly belie#ed to ha#e al&ed the second half of this path including. Huddha 3aha#ira Huddhaghosa %hrist $hirumoolar >agaarjuna 2ocrates ;ythagoras ;lato Jc&hartohn of the %ross 2t! Grancis $heresa of +#ila Aildegard of Hingen /umi 1andhi Bao-tzu 3irabai ;atanjali /amana 3aharsi /ama&rishna +nanda-maya-ma Irina $eedie *alai Bama 2hri +urobindo and $he 3other and innumerable yogis and yoginis re#eals one commonality. they ha#e each achie#ed atransformed sexuality a postgenital puberty as I term it!Hut try to mo#e full maturity much beyond the ground of the fifth and final psychoanalytic stage of genital puberty as many transpersonalists do and psychoanalysis (and the #ast majority of all people) arns e al& onto thin air! Jxtend the physical ground synthetically and the psychedelic mysticisms of 3cKenna Beary and the shamanic and Yogic alchemists ta&e root perhaps e#en ;rozac! 3a&e of them hat you ill! %onsider Yoga (or for example tai chi) as merely healthy exercises lac&ing in de#elopmental import and much is lost! If seen as credibly endogenous hoe#er the #ast range of Kundalini Yoga bodily phenomena re#eals the gradually steepening physical ground of the more spiritual stages of de#elopment thus finishing the construction of @ashburn's path and adding flesh to the more meditati#e spiritualities and archetypal psychologies hich ha#e underritten the transpersonalist's ad#ances thus far!Gurthermore if these slo-de#eloping Yogic maturations are innate yet unaccounted for the conseuences could radiate throughout our current model of the de#elopmental span and its entire her-meneutic economy and not just pertain to some eccentric transpersonal le#el! Gor example gaining bac&bone a metaphor for gaining character might no be considered the literal physio-spiritual maturation of the spine part of its puberty!  +nd perhaps as 1opi Krishna author of numerous popular boo&s on this subject maintains Kundalini is on an e#olutionary de#elopmental scale! Gurthermore as +urobindo >ietzsche $eilhard >eumann 1ebser @ilber and others described such e#olution might be far more of a spiritual nature than mere *arinian adaptation ould permit! Yet e#en ithin *arinism e#olutionary theorist *onald 2ymons conjectured the folloing regarding the srcins of ho genital puberty sexuality as first decoupled from fertility cycles for early homo sapiens.If one #ies the matter in terms of ultimate causation and assumes that permanent group-li#ing is adapti#e for some reason then all other things being eual selection E*arinian natural electionF can be expected to fa#or the most economical of the a#ailable mechanisms that results in perma-nentsociality! ne possible mechanism is for a formerly episodic reard to become permanent but in terms of time energy and ris& this seems to be a #ery expensi#e solution if the reard is sexual acti#ity! It is Eould ha#e been but still isCF much more economical Efrom a biological perspecti#eF to alter the reard mechanism of the brain itself so that the sight sound or smell of familiar conspecifics Emembers of the same speciesF come to be experienced as pleasurable! (2ymons ,575p! ,L=)  +s e shall see the hypothalamus (hich monitors hunger thirst sexual desire aggressi#e urges and blood oxygen le#els)--the 2ymonsian reard mechanism of the brain --is the loci of se#eral Yogic puberties! Golloing from 2ymons these puberties could be on an e#olutionary scale and congruent ith *arinian principles hereby a sense perception sexuality emerges as described in many religious traditions and in great detail in $antra-Kundalini Yogas!;erhaps e#en Kundalini Yoga itself must be rested from its on indigenous tangle of competing #ies hich ha#e come to depicting it too as a system of mere techniues more than as aesome phenomena of >ature (or 2upernature for those ho prefer superlati#e but confusing differentiations) that they are! Gor in spiritually-preoccupied India (and #arious other mysticisms) the descent further into the body has held mixed interest ith the recent exception of 2hri +urobindo and the 3other's image of both descending and ascending de#elopmental forces and the nondualistic yogis hose esoteric interpretations I no approach! #ecovering the Saha$a%ndogenously rising Yoga In order to #ie Yoga and meditation as just as endogenous to our de#elopment (and as aesome) as gestation once as as ta&ing one's first post-umbilical breath as adolescent puberty e must deconstruct the o#er-formalized pedagogical edifices that ha#e gron around it! Hoth indigenously o#er the ages and in their translation and importation into the @est the innately- arising (sahaja) panentheistic dionysian (in the >ietzschean sense) srcins of Yoga and meditation ha#e been shaped and o#er-shaped into apollonian pedagogical constructs cosmeticized or le#eled for mass appeal 3  sterilized for upper-class gentilities or otherise tamed and o#er-tamed to a#oid real or imagined dangers!$he moral sentiments (yama and niyama) and their mercies often became mere rules of the rigid-mandatory or lip-ser#ice #arieties! $he grace of seuence and conseuence of &arma as typically mechanicalized into an arch-la in contrast to more merciful teachings regarding a grace that is independent of &armic las! $he mysterious flo of lineage stiffened into the rigidities of caste also in contrast to the dionysian rejection of caste prejudice and the crazy isdom traditions that ridicule it!$he re#erentially ecstatic *ance of 2i#a Bord of Yogis became stylized in public rituals classical music and dance and in the Yogic asanas themsel#es or ithered in the se#ere asceticisms of the fa&ir! Hy the second century +!*! ;atanjali's dualistic classical Yoga-sutra had formalized an o#er- separation beteen >ature (pra&riti) and ?ltimate 2ubjecti#ity (purusha) thus rejecting the idea that the orld is an aspect of the *i#ine (Geuerstein ,56= p! 9,=)!$hus the shamanic or dionysian Yoga and its bond ith mystical phenomenology maintained in the li#ing moment through oral transmission in the hoary past (and still ith all manner of attendant difficulties) arose and then fell into e#ermore secularized scriptural fundamentalisms and dilutions! $he seuence of its fall from only-happening-no time and in-the-moment-utterances into formalized theories and histories of e#ents might be as follos.(,) the spirit-in-time re#ealed as a superlati#e pri#ate bodily experience (ecstasy or enstasy) (=) emergent publically as pre-semantic ecstatic-catalytic utterances and dancing-saying mo#ements then () languaged orally as sheer descriptions of the experience then (9) memorized and scriptured into an orthodox text or externalized liturgical commemoration (Yoga and meditation as teachings8 the mo#ements classicalized as ritual forms) (:) its lessons fableized for charm (the ancient myths) then(<) in search of a genteel purity its spar&ling and sensual phenomenology put into disembodied descriptions of hea#en- realms or sheer higher states of consciousnesses and (7) as texts and practices exported into the @est formulized for mass pedagogical ease (the contemporary Yoga boo&s and aerobics-li&e classes stress-reduction courses and other holistic applications or ne age appropriations) (6) made abstract or symbolic of something else or primiti#ized by scholars for learned discourse (the transpersonalist's synthesizing schemas) 9 and at all junctures (5) suppressed or championed by religio-political forces8 eroded by sectarian ri#alries and scandals8 desiccated as the legalistic purely academic ord or scorned as mere superstition! $hus the Yogic textual metaphors hich paint accurate pictures of #arious phases of the inner experience of certain neuroendocrinal maturations--of for example fluids raining don from the hea#ens and sacrifices made into further sacrifices referring to the transmutation of subtle melatonin-li&e pineal secretions as they appear (to the rishi&a the seer ho sees the described referent actually happening ) ith his eyes closed in ecstatic itness to their flic&ering precipitations in the e#er-spiraling-higher E sacrified and further sacrificed F into the e#er-spiraling higher center of the cathedral-domed cranium-ere transposed to the externalized space of the firmament and ironically buried ithin the homologous brahmanic sacrificial rituals (or myths) hich ere meant to be subser#ient pointers to the inner hormonalde#elopmental experiences! $he higher and higher hea#ens became abstractions instead of aesthetic descriptions of ho it floatingly actually feels hen the cerebral puberty unfolds meditati#e glimpses of theinfinity of lo#e-space-time! Gor hat are all pubescent hormones but the sacrificial materializations of the infiniteC +nd hat are these sacrifices except gi#ings-to-physical-humans of the sensual path to their on highest joys and matured clarities! (>!H! the abo#e and the next run-on sentences are poetic literaryde#ices that attempt to induce some #ersion of the experience described therein!)0ia further translations into the modern pragmatic- scientific #ernacular instead of an inner ae of onder and delight e no spea& of spiritual practices #isualization techniues Yogic states of consciousness and uasi->etonian spiritual energies! Instead of a ell-mapped but dynamic esoteric phenomenology of mar#elous fluttering horling meditati#e experiences of cerebral-hormonal floing-juices (soma) and brilliant sunlight ( sa#itri a 0edic term for Kundalini illuminating the mind and for hich Jlizaren&o#a counts more than fifteen #erbs denoting its brilliance in the /ig 0eda) e ha#e the dry brahmanic (Indian or @estern) abstractions or translations depicting only exoteric ritual 4
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