Twenty years ago I wrote an article for Realization.org called ‘The Day My Kundalini Woke Up‘. The article says nothing about the long-term effects of that experience because when I wrote it, I didn’t yet know what the long-term effects would be. Today I’m going to tell the rest of the story.
As I explained in the article, for three days after my kundalini became active I felt a joyous conviction that everything is God and that the universe is benevolent. This conviction or realization was so strong and beautiful and glorious that I cried tears of joy.
When I say “everything is God” some readers may think, “Freddie’s a pantheist or he’s a panentheist or he’s an Advaitin…” It was nothing like that. I had no opinions about the precise nature of God or the relationship between God and the world. I am trying to convey a feeling or intuition, not a concept or a philosophy.
I’ve never been able to find a word to describe how I felt during those three days. “Exalted” always comes to mind but it’s misleading because there was nothing special about me. I hadn’t changed. I was simply aware of something that has always been true. To be aware of that fact felt a little like being on fire. Maybe that’s what I should say: God set me on fire. It’s an exaggeration but it conveys the feeling.
That initial experience came and went but every few days or weeks the feeling came back for a while. Sometimes it lasted for a few minutes, sometimes for hours. Sometimes the feeling was mild and my eyes merely got damp, and at other times the feeling was strong and tears ran down my face. This went on for years.
On the physical side, there isn’t much to report. Occasionally when I was awake there were some slight kriyas, and my girlfriend told me that when I slept, my body often jerked around and energy went through my arms.
On the subtle level, waves of cold energy occasionally passed through my body. Sometimes it made me so cold that I had to put on a sweater. Maybe this energy is related to the feeling we get when we think of something uncanny and get goosebumps.
I did nothing to promote these experiences. I thought they were unimportant. My deliberate sadhana at the time was either Self-enquiry or an effort to remain permanently conscious.
One day the tearful, joyous experiences reached a climax, and the most intense episode of them all took place. I’m going to tell what happened because it’s an interesting story, but if that particular episode had never happened, the overall result of my kundalini awakening would have been the same. This story is extra icing on the cake. It’s not essential to this article.
Icing on the cake or a slight digression
On that afternoon Julia, my girlfriend, drove me to a subway station. Before I kissed her goodbye and got out of the car, I looked at the view through the windshield. We were parked on an ugly street on an ugly day. It was raining and everything was gray and dirty. The wipers were smearing dirty water back and forth.
I looked at this ugly landscape and thought, “I’m seeing God.”
I said to Julia, “Everyone wants to see God. They all think they aren’t seeing God. This is God. Everybody is seeing God all the time.”
I began to cry and gestured at the buildings and people and cars that we saw through the windshield.
“If this isn’t God, what would God be?”
In that last statement is the essence of the whole thing, if you can hear what I mean.
The world didn’t look any different from normal. If you’re thinking that it was radiant with some mystical energy or that I saw angels hovering above the rooftops, no, it wasn’t like that. Everything looked the same as usual. What was happening was that I finally really took in the hugeness of the fact of existence.
I was sobbing. My body shook and my lungs gasped spastically. Tears were literally dripping off my face. Julia became frightened and said maybe she should drive me to a hospital, but I said no because I felt fine.
She made me stay in the car for about half an hour, hoping my crying would stop, but it didn’t. Finally I said, “I’m really okay. Don’t worry. Let me go, okay?”
I got out of the car and walked down the stairs into the subway station. I was still sobbing and tears fell from my face onto my jacket. The lenses of my glasses were wet, not only with tears but also condensation, and I had trouble seeing. The thought occurred to me, “I should ask God for a sign.” I said silently in my mind, “God, please give me a sign.” I’ve done that only two or three other times during my entire life.
Instantly something distracted me and I forgot that I had asked God for a sign. A woman was sitting nearby on a lawn chair singing into a microphone. Fifty or sixty high school students, on their way home from school, stood in a circle around her listening. She was part of a program run by the New York City subway system that puts musicians in stations. Like street musicians, these people play for donations, but they do it in subway stations rather than on sidewalks.
She was singing a Hank Williams song, “I Saw the Light.” This was an interesting coincidence because when I was young I was a street musician and I used to sing that same song.
The refrain goes:
I saw the light
I saw the light
No more darkness, no more night.
Now I’m so happy, I got me back my sight.
Praise the lord, I saw the light.
This lady had a wonderful church-lady voice; you could tell she grew up singing in church choirs. She was about 70 years old. As I stood there listening to her, I noticed more coincidences or connections between her and myself. Then something happened involving the lawn chair and the high school students that revealed her character. I saw that she was extremely good natured, humble, without a trace of self-importance, and jolly. She had a great laugh. The students could feel it too. I could see they were being influenced by her mood and her goodness. I thought, “This interaction I’m seeing between the lady and the students is a Godly thing.” I felt tremendous affection for her.
Then I remembered that I had first noticed her immediately after I asked God for a sign. I had forgotten about that. I realized, “This lady is the sign that I asked God for.”
After her set ended I decided to walk up to her and tell her that she was what God showed me when I asked for a sign. I was still crying and I wondered if she would think I was psychotic and get scared. My glasses were still wet and I couldn’t see well, so it was only when I stood right in front of her that I saw that she was crying too. Her face was streaked with tears, just like mine, and the lenses of her glasses were covered with condensation, just like mine.
I said to her, “I asked God for a sign and you’re my sign.”
She looked at me and said, “I just asked God for a sign and you’re my sign.”
We stood there staring at each other.
What conclusion can we draw from this event? Was it an amazing coincidence? Or was God showing me that not only are things arranged for our benefit, at least some of the time, but they are arranged simultaneously for the benefit of everybody involved?
The literal meaning of the word angel is “messenger”. Maybe we should think of it in a more general way as “agent.” If everything is arranged by God for everybody’s benefit, than each of us is an angel every time we interact with someone.
As far as I know that woman was an ordinary human being, but is it also possible that when I spoke to her, I was talking to an angel of the Lord? And although I’m 100% certain that I’m a human being, can she say the same thing about me?
Okay, like I said, that story was something of a digression. Icing on the cake.
Before I digressed I was explaining that for years I experienced episodes in which I felt with various degrees of intensity that everything is divine and that the universe is benevolent. Then gradually these episodes faded. I think they faded because the knowledge got fully absorbed and became a permanent part of me.
It was only years later that I realized the result of these experiences. One of the results, anyway. I stopped becoming afraid. One day it occurred to me that I hadn’t been afraid of anything in years.
That seems like such an extreme statement, I wonder if it’s really true. I’m sure if I narrowly escaped a car crash, my heart would beat violently.
But things like that rarely happen. Normally when we say we’re afraid what we really mean is that we’re worried that something bad will happen. For example, you go for a biopsy to see if you have cancer. Then you worry until you hear the results. It’s hard to believe but I don’t think I’ve worried that way in years.
I think the reason I stopped doing it is because I became convinced that the universe is benevolent. This isn’t a concept. It’s a gut feeling. It makes no sense. I can’t defend it intellectually. I’ve just come to believe it on a gut level. If the universe is benevolent, and if everything is arranged for our benefit, then no matter what happens, even if it’s bad, in some way I don’t claim to understand it’s really good. I can’t defend this intellectually. I don’t say it makes sense. I’m only saying that those kundalini experiences made me feel convinced that it’s true.
Photo: Monsoon by Julie Mayfeng