Top-Down Awakening

Therapy, Medication, Kundalini, and Spiritual Awakening

So I occasionally get asked by someone to talk about my feelings of “standard treatments” and Spiritual Awakenings, such as Kundalini awakenings.

I am generally a reasonable person, and so my response to the person is that each person is individual and must do what is right for themselves in their own life. Which is the truth. I am not you, and I cannot decide if therapy, hospitalization, medication, and so forth is the right trajectory for you. Sometimes it is. But what is more often the case is that the current treatment options for anyone who is acting out of the “ordinary” and admits to it, or is not functional in their daily lives is medication and/or hospitalization. Basically, if it is not physical, it is mental.

That is where we are as a society, and where we still are in terms of treating diseases. Our society as a whole is just now really (well maybe for the last decade or two) understanding that mind and body are connected, and their are a gamut of new-age authors who were former doctors (or something like that) who say that they truly understand the mind-body-spirit and have discovered how they are connected. Most of them are talking about the mind-body connection, and their understandings are really surface but palatable to a wide, mainstream new-age audience who is just discovering the same surface understandings, but I won’t go there in this blog.

Most of the material about spiritual awakenings that has been introduced to a mainstream audience (well, an audience that has been interested in it, so not exactly mainstream) has been through psycho-therapeutic models. Meaning that psychiatrists and psychologists became interested in the subject and have written books, and done studies and programs about it. A lot of this material is still enormously helpful and insightful, by the way, even if it was written decades ago by this point. I do not wish to castigate this material, suggest it is not important, or that it is not essential readings and understandings for anyone going through a spiritual awakening.

But the psychotherapeutic model has its limitations.

Mainly because it considers anything deviating from “normal behavior”– meaning anything that the “normal” sleeping person (the person that just goes about their life in the repeated behavior/loops and is under a lot of conditioning and never really questions it, or gets upset if they have to) wouldn’t do is considered aberrant behavior because it diverges from that state. Meaning that anyone who is actually going through a spiritual awakening has something wrong with them because they are not acting or living their lives how a “normal” person should act.

There are all sorts of words for this– Qi gong sickness, or Meditation Related Problems, or Problems Related to Spiritual Practice. All diagnosable (some questionable diagnoses by the mainstream of psychiatry still, by the way) issues.

The difficult with this is that the Spiritual Awakening process is an aberration, but it doesn’t mean that something is wrong. In fact, it often means that something is really right. That someone is awakening beyond conditioned reality. And what happens is that the psychotherapeutic model defines this aberration as wrong, bad, medication or hospitalization worthy so that the person can return to “normal”– meaning the sleeper state.

I have read countless studies, for example, of well meaning physicians who became interested in “meditation related problems” who have blamed meditation for the cause of the issues presenting. In some cases it very much is an issue, by the way… we tend to focus on meditations that are too advanced for us (going from A to Z in one leap), make contact with spiritual truths that are too much for us to process, or focus on meditations that open us up psychically (open your third eye!) without processing any of our lower chakra stuff first. But even in those cases, what the person needs is someone to help them process, not someone to diagnose them and put them back to sleep.  

And many times, even if it is the “wrong” meditation, what is actually happening is this… the person is going through an Awakening. It is uncomfortable. It is causing physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual issues. It is causing the person to become non-functional in their daily lives, or to realize that their former, sleeping lives are not who and what they want to be now. 

And this is certainly an aberration– a deviation from the norm. But we have a tendency to want to put back to sleep anything that is uncomfortable, anything that causes pain or dis-ease or difficulty in our lives. 

And many times what is happening in spiritual awakening is a healing process. A rapid, uncomfortable, healing process. 

But that is not how it is treated in the psycho-therapeutic model. 

We are so used to medicating anything that makes us feel. Any emotions that are coming up (and there will be a lot in the awakening process) that we cannot define as “our own” are treated as dysfunctions, and something to be medicated or treated.

This is because psychotherapeutic methods have only “awakened” to the family system level. It is still news, and not accepted– that ancestral patterns, past lives, societal, world, cosmic patterns (for example, there are others… you can read about them in my book) live within us and can be expressed, processed, worked through. So when someone is coming upon a pile of rage, or a huge amount of grief that does not come from early childhood, psychotherapeutic practitioners do not (by and large) have the knowledge to know how to identify these patterns or work with them. So typically what happens is that the person under their care will go through therapy (talk therapy) to go over their early childhood again and again to solve the mental aspects of this (which certainly can be helpful) or to give the person some tools to help them in their daily lives be a bit more functional… or in some cases medication or being told they will “just have to live” with things.

Because most psychotherapeutic practitioners typically have a great deal of ignorance about the spiritual awakening process, or about anything beyond early childhood type trauma or energies. Some do, by the way, and are exploring ancestral work (family constellations) or spiritual awakening (transpersonal, some jungian, for example) but even many of those still define the spiritual awakening process not as a process of growth, of unfolding, and of healing… but of one of deviation from societal norms that must be stopped. 

We do not like to feel, to experience, to grow. Growth can be painful, it can be brutal in fact. And our current society, our current cultural mindset is to make anything painful, out-of-the ordinary, or difficult simply go away. To sweep it under the rug, to put it back to sleep, to drug, drink, and screw it away until we no longer remember our existential pain.

SO I WILL SAY WITH A LOT OF CAVEATS: I am not a physician, I am not a therapist. I personally do not find those models helpful, and never particularly have. Personally, I have needed much more work on a spiritual level vs. a mental level, and have worked far beyond the context of any early childhood pain that I have experienced… and don’t feel the need to talk about it much anymore.

BUT I WILL SAY THIS: There currently is not a model in place to keep people in Spiritual Emergency safe. This is, unfortunately, the hospital systems and psychotherapeutic models. It is the limitations of our current cultural mindset that causes this. But I digress. There are some points in the spiritual awakening process that someone may need hospitalization or medication or they will harm themselves, or someone else. They are so broken down that they need someone to watch over them, and their family or friends are not able to.

I very much understand this. I also wish it was different, but for people who are in such a state of emergency, this is their only option, and it is often life-saving.

The difficulty with this option is that it goes on your “record” and you are given medication. Medication that is hard to titrate off of (despite what clinicians might say, all anti-depressants and/or anti-psychotics are extremely difficult to work your way off of, some more than others… but Acupuncture can really help with this by the way if you are wanting to do so in concert with your physicians knowledge). Once you are on medication it is intended to be for the long-term, and you are also expected to be in therapy for a long time (typically).

All of these methods may be life-saving, but medication in particular stops the spiritual awakening process. It just does– again, some more than others (I work with plenty of people on medication, by the way, and don’t pass judgement on people who are taking it, as I have mentioned, these are simply my thoughts). This may be exactly what you want or need if you are reading this, by the way. I do understand that, I have compassion for that. I talk to people weekly who I tell truthfully that I cannot help– they are too far gone into an emergency state that they need someone local (at the very least) because I work through teaching people tools and understandings to work through their stuff, and if they are not in a place to be able to process something (or anything) that I say, there isn’t much, quite frankly, that I can do.

My last caveat (I promise): Again, I am not a physician, but as someone who has gone through a difficult process I know that one of the biggest difficulties in this world is that people think that their own experiences, their own opinions and insights need to be had by everyone else. Basically, what this means is that (like I mentioned above) I do not personally suggest medication for people going through Spiritual Awakening, and I think that therapy is helpful only to a certain limited point (see limitations above) because the Spiritual Awakening process is spiritual, not mental… But I am not you. I cannot decide for you what you should do with your life. You can read my thoughts to family members of people going through Spiritual Awakening here, but I am not living your life and cannot decide what the right trajectory for you is. I am the first to acknowledge that hospitals can be life-saving. That is what they are there for. If you are at that point, that might be the best decision for you. But if you are not, you may want to consider things a bit more deeply.

Ideally, some day there will be treatment centers focused on giving people who are experiencing Spiritual Awakenings a place to really process what is coming up for them… instead of pushing it back down to the depths of their subconscious (Anyone want to give me funding for this?) But until that day, we must live in a world that all of us have co-created, and do the best that we can. There are ways to work with Spiritual Awakenings so they are not treated as a diagnosable process, an aberration, or something to be put back to sleep. There really are. The Spiritual Awakening process, despite its difficulty, allows for you to release what is not whole– what is broken, traumatized, and conditioned in you– so you can awaken to who you truly are. Just imagine if we could have that basic understanding… or if the whole world could (or at least the allopathic world could).

If you are interested in working with me, you can contact me

Kundalini, Spiritual Awakening, and Control

One of the most difficult aspects of Kundalini awakening, or really any spiritual awakening, is reconciling the idea of control.

When we are still asleep we think that we are in control of much of our lives. Many spiritual communities and new-agers constantly speak of how “in control” we are– in fact, everything is a reflection of us and we “chose” our parents and our lives and the people and events in it. If we just think positively enough, or are “spiritual” enough we will have total and complete control over every aspect of our existence.

A Kundalini Awakening quickly breaks through that delusion. Kundalini awakenings are like a volcano of not-control, ripping through our lives and destroying any false notion of control we may have. Of course, some of you reading this may have gone through gentler awakenings and are merely pondering how much control you have, or if the memes and “secrets” about how when we awaken we have total and complete control over our lives is true.

It is not. The funny part about “waking up” is that you realize how much you have scrambled to believe things that are false, what illusions you have suffered under, and how frequently the opposite of what you once thought is the actual truth of the matter.

Control is an illusion. None of us have control. We have outer control of our “mundane” lives to a certain degree. If we sit on the couch and eat chocolate cake binge watching Netflix rather than going to yoga class that is (at least somewhat) on us. But did we even really make that decision? Maybe we were intended to eat chocolate cake and watch Netflix instead of going to yoga class.

As long as we think that we are in control we will always feel out of control. It is an odd paradox. In a Kundalini awakening most of us desperately want control… and we are taught a brutal lesson about control as our bodies are twitching and contorting and our beliefs and understandings about the world are ripped away from us. The desperate need for control causes us to clamp down, to attempt to stop the process, which only succeeds in making things much worse.

We do not have control. We never did, and never will. If we give up this idea of always being in control, of needing to be in control, and all of our mental constructs about control we can fully just be. No more planning, no more endless mental constructs about how we are going to be so much in control in our lives, or if we only were in control this and this would happen, and if we could just think hard enough or be enough or do enough we could finally have control.

We obsess about control. We let it rule our lives. If we are undergoing a spiritual awakening like a Kundalini awakening, we want to control the process because it seems to be happening despite us. The end result of this is that in the rare moments things may be going well in our lives and we feel in control we feel in power. And all the other times we fall victim to the endless thoughts of what would only happen if we had control and how our lives would be different.

None of us have control. It is incredibly freeing to let go of control, to let go of any illusions that you have control. In a Kundalini awakening it is crucial… it is one of the big tests and initiations in fact… to go beyond control, to realize that you do not in fact have any control over your existence.

Once you let go of this control you realize that you do, ironically, have some control. Of external circumstances, in a certain regard. But for the big stuff, the huge choices and “if only” and all of the stuff we obsess about we can simply let it all go. We can simply be. We can simply allow. And when you do that what flows into your life does to a higher degree, and when you make a decision you simply make the decision that you should make. The endless mental chatter is gone.

When we let go of control we allow for people, things, events, and everything in our life to be orchestrated by the divine. It flows through all of the layers of “reality” to our external, mundane, every-day reality. We become who we are meant to be, do what we are meant to do, and eat chocolate cake if it is the right time for chocolate cake.

By participating in life this way we know what opportunities, what energies, and what paths we should walk. We seize on opportunities when presented to us because they are the right opportunities. And when something “bad” happens to us, we do not think that “if we only did something differently” or beat ourselves up for not being a different person. It happened, it was intended to happen, and we move on (with the right sort of help or support system if necessary, of course).

By letting go of control, or our ideas about control, we can simply be. And if you are going through a significant spiritual awakening, such as a Kundalini awakening, it was intended to happen. You cannot stop it, you are not in control of it. Stop thinking of it as an adversarial force, stop stopping it and restricting it. Get to know what it is doing and why. Learn how to work with it.

If you are interested in working with me, you can contact me

Spiritual Awakening and Isolation

One of the most common experiences on the spiritual path is a sensation of isolation and loneliness. This experience of isolation grows larger the more awakened we are, and can be illusory or a real experience based on having experiences and understandings that not many other people in the world have.

All over the world people are experiencing small or large manifestations of spiritual awakening. Initially these can be very isolating. One of the funniest things that I have found in my practice is that people with actually manifested psychic abilities or who are going through considerable spiritual awakenings will often consider the experience (at least at first and maybe for a considerable period of time after) negative, difficult, and isolating while people without psychic abilities (or with very mild psychic abilities) or who are not going through a significant spiritual awakening will loudly proclaim these experiences and do things like go up to people in grocery stores and say that their dead aunt is there, or will speak about their Kundalini awakening even though they do not know what one is. It is just the way of the world, and an interesting phenomena… people with actual psychic abilities and spiritual awakenings will often find them really isolating, especially if they are intense or significant experiences resulting in a much different understanding and view of society than what is commonly accepted as consensual reality.

In the beginning, when you are just waking up, the isolation is self-created and is also a construct of a society that does not really talk about such things. Most of us who are sensitive, psychic, or able to see beyond the cultural norm experience trauma in our lives because we think, feel, or see differently and more deeply than most people. We question things that nobody else would even think to. We are told that our experiences are not real, that there are no colors around people or that there is no way we can feel sad because the person next to us is sad. And that the feelings, these sensitivities, our experiences are not appropriate. This creates trauma patterns in which we self-isolate, feeling as if we are the only sensitive or the only person having spiritual or energetic experiences because we have been traumatized (at typically an early age) and told that our experiences, sight, feelings, and abilities are in some way not okay.

But there are millions of people “waking up”, in the beginning stages or intermediate stages of questioning. There are millions of people who notice that they are more sensitive, notice more, or see more than the general population does. There are millions of people drawn to spiritual practices, meditation, yoga, shamanism, tarot, herbalism, reiki, and healing practices because they are waking up. Many of these people will eventually find communities of like minds and begin to see that although larger society doesn’t talk about these experiences that there are many others with similar experiences that they can chat with, get advice from, and feel a communal bond with. Much of the isolation for these people will begin to alleviate or even disappear with this discovery… as the beginning and even intermediate “awakened” person finds their tribe of people who are on the same wavelength as they are. This is especially true if they can work through the and clear the initial experience of the teacher, parent, adult, or child that initially traumatized them and told them that their experiences were not valid, or were wrong to see/feel/sense.

But there is a point where spiritual experiences are isolating. It is no longer an illusion, nor self-created. It simply is. Most people, even those beginning to awaken, or who have been for a short or even long period of time, are still on the surface levels of reality. They are still participating in illusions, in their wounds, and in the giant play that we all externally participate in in this world. As I have talked about before, most books, teachers, gurus, and information out there is for the 90 percent (or so) of people who are in beginning stages.

As we go beyond this 90 percent, our experiences cause us to become isolated. We begin to have experiences that are so far off the cultural norm that they cannot be talked about. There are certain spiritual doors that begin to open that once gone through create understanding levels and experiences that are rarely talked about. This is because most people are still engaged in illusion, in control patterns, and in self-creation. Many spiritual experiences are beyond words as well. Anything beyond what is culturally accepted as consensual reality beyond a certain point (even in spiritual circles) is too scary for us to consider unless we have had the direct experience or are at a stage of being especially open and have worked through our traumas and control issues. But typically anything beyond this 90 percent point needs to be experienced to be believed. Anything beyond this point is too far off from consensual reality to be assimilated easily and there is a cognitive dissonance, meaning that people who have not experienced it themselves will not be able to process the information and will do anything to return to their current state of thinking to preserve safety, control, and their own cosmologies.

This very real experience of isolation is difficult. But it is important to know that even if you are not in the 90 percent who is in the beginner stage and are actually beginning to awaken out of the script, the plays, and the understandings of the dominant 90 percent that you have company. If you are in the 90-98 percentile (intermediate to beginning advanced for simplicity and clarity), or are even in the 90 percent but are beginning to question things and are ready to move on, there are still plenty of people in this category. They do not populate that chat rooms, they do not need to give advice, they have lost some of that seeker mentality and the incessant need to prove themselves so they are typically a bit more difficult to find. They know that their experiences are far off the cultural norm so they are frightened to talk or they keep their mouths shut to not be thought insane.

And there are also teachers in the 95-100 percent category. There are enlightened people throughout this world. You simply will not find them if you are not ready for them. Let me put this more simply. There is of little use for someone who is just beginning their spiritual journey to find works by Krishnamurti or Ramana Maharshi. They will first find Oprah, Andrew Weil, Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, Michael Harner and Alberto Villoldo, and then move on to Adyashanti and Mooji before they move on to Krishnamurti, Ramana Maharshi, Muktananda, Hazrat Inayat Khan, Gopi Krishna… and then they may move on to source materials from various biblical and spiritual texts before they lose the need for others and their teachings to influence their lives and be part of their cosmologies.

Real spiritual experiences are isolating. But for most of us we can find communities. Even if we are in the 99 percent, or even 100 percent, we can find someone of a different culture or relationship to the divine to teach us, to guide us, to be friends with us. When we are ready to open our belief systems, to move forward, to release in an authentic and true way that is when the appropriate teacher, book, or understanding will come our way to take us from 40 to 42 percent, or 99 to 100 percent, or even 100 to 0 percent. We just may find ourselves needing to share (or not share) with others who have not had the same experiences in a different way, in a way they may understand. We can have spiritual experiences that are isolating and take us far away from the cultural norm and simultaneously experience oneness, have friends and lovers and partners and family (even when they are part of the norm), go to yoga, PTA meetings, work, and the grocery store and find teachers and guides to help us understand and build skills to work with what we are experiencing. We just need to be open and ready to move on from where we are. We have to be okay with going beyond that 90 percent, beyond the chat rooms and the meetups and the spiritual communities and the books that are immersed and do not wish to divert from the cultural norms of “okay” spiritual experience and the surface levels of external reality.

Guidance for Family Members- Spiritual Awakenings and Kundalini Syndrome

One of the more frequent emails that I get are some basic variation of these:

I have a family member (son, daughter, mother, father, brother, sister, cousin) or friend who is going through a Spiritual Awakening. How do I help them?
How do I know if my family member/friend is really having a Spiritual Awakening or is just crazy?
How should I know if I should put my family member into counseling/therapy/medication or hospitalization? How do I know if it is the right time for my family member/friend/loved one to get off their medication?

Although different in scope, many of these are really the same sort of question. What you are really asking is if Spiritual Awakenings are real, and if they are, what the hell do we do about them, especially in a world/culture where any sort of mental or emotional deviation from the “norm” is medicated so we can return to the normalcy of what is to be expected of most of our lives.

The biggest issue here is actually not if the person is “crazy” it is if they are functional. This is important to understand. If someone is going through a spiritual experience, no matter how big or mind-blowing or Jesus-talking, Kundalini feeling volcano-ing, seeing stars and communicating with the depths of the universe it is, the person should be reasonably functional in their daily, mundane lives. If they are not, they need help.

Basic Types of Spiritual Awakenings and Functionality
There is then a question of what sort of help they need. Many people have spiritual experiences that can temporarily cause issues in their mundane lives (and by that I mean going to work, going to the grocery store, etc. I certainly do not mean “mundane” as a negative). But even the highest, most intense spiritual issues should be able to be integrated after a period of time. If someone is still reeling from a spiritual experience after a week or two to the point that they are no longer functional, it may be time to take next steps.

Many others have long-term spiritual experiences that are incredibly destabilizing and too overwhelming to process. These are the people that end up hospitalized, medicated, and so forth. Unfortunately what happens in our culture is that once someone is stabilized they are rarely titrated off their medication so they remain medicated and partially stuck in the midst of a spiritual awakening for a good portion of their lives, if not their whole life.

Others have spiritual experiences that are difficult, destabilizing, and are difficult to integrate at times but remain reasonably functional in their lives. This group, if they do not know what is going on, may enter talk therapy, get on medication, or are more likely to seek out a spiritual worker or spiritual counselor, do bodywork or energy work, or seek out a guru who can possibly help them.

Many others are having mild spiritual experiences that they can seek out on weekends, in workshops, through meditation and other means. They are able to go on with their lives and suffer little to no repercussions physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually for having an interest in a spiritual path.

So what to do? What are next steps?
Generally my guidance for this is entirely individualized. But if I were to generalize I would say…

1. If they are reasonably functional in their lives, simply let them be. So they talk about weird stuff, let it go. Support them the best you can even if you do not know what they are talking about. Again, the question isn’t if a psychiatrist in a room with a bunch of ink blots would think that they deviate too far from the “norm” but if they are functional and reasonable in their daily lives. If they are, let them be.

2. If they are reasonably functional typically, but are going through a hard time… consider waiting or other options. This is more individualized. If your loved one is typically a stable, peaceful, and logical individual who is having an intense “wave” of Kundalini, is reliving a trauma in order to process, clear, and heal it, or is dealing with a physical sickness that no doctor can figure out, I would again suggest giving them a bit of time. In spiritual awakenings old events, traumas, and even physical sicknesses come up to release. This can be quite difficult to deal with. In spiritual awakenings an immense amount of energy can get activated and cause a whole range of odd symptoms and behaviors. This can also be difficult to deal with. But if you are dealing with a normally functional, reasonable human being who is having a rough weekend of Kundalini activation, I again would consider letting them be and telling them that you are there for them if they need you. Treat them as if they have the physical flu- ask them if they need anything, make sure they are safe, and offer them some soup or to come over and hang out with them. Suggest that they see an energy worker or spiritual worker familiar with spiritual awakenings so they can develop tools to deal with rough times. If this lack of functioning continues for a period of time (such as over a week or two) or you are in fear for their personal safety, or you cannot get them to see a spiritual worker, you may need to consider next steps.

If your loved one is in the same scenario as above (having a rough week with a lot of symptoms, basically) but they have a background of being emotionally unstable, traumatized, or were not very functional to begin with, you may also need to consider next steps.

3. Medication, Hospitalization, and Psychiatry
I would love if every person experiencing a spiritual awakening could find a spiritual worker or healer that actually knows what they are talking about or doing, or a psychotherapist who wouldn’t judge the person as “abnormal” and tell them to get medication. I would love if every person who was going through a spiritual awakening had loving and available family members to take care of them during the times that they were unable to function (this is, of course, a lot to ask). I would love if every person experiencing a spiritual awakening would take personal responsibility for what is going on and begin learning the tools in order to navigate their experiences, to go to healers to help them through the trauma and issues coming up for processing, and begin meditating, walking, or doing whatever activities were necessary to make them feel whole.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen. Spiritual awakening is disorienting and it is likely at some points to make the person non-functional. In cases where the person already has a background of trauma or emotional instability it can break them. Many times people undergoing spiritual awakenings need to be able to work, to be a part of their family, or do not have loved ones able to care for them for whatever reason. This is totally understandable.

In mild to moderate cases, or in cases where a normally stable and emotionally sound person is temporarily destabilized, these are always the first steps I suggest. I first suggest bodywork, such as CranioSacral therapy, as well as Spiritual Healing and Counseling to anyone going through a spiritual awakening. I suggest meditation, learning and practicing tools learned through the Spiritual Healer, gentle to moderate exercise, reducing television and Facebook/internet time… but sometimes symptoms are so severe or the person is so traumatized that these “first steps” cannot happen.

In this case I suggest a Transpersonal therapist or a Jungian therapist if you can find one. They are aware of the spiritual dimensions of care but are also part of the typical “Western” allopathic framework- they can suggest medication, hospitalization, and so forth. I would work with them and their suggestions.

In severe cases medication and psychiatric interventions, such as hospitalization, may be necessary. If the person is in danger of hurting themselves, cannot tell where they are, and is completely non-functional they are in need of drastic care, even if it is temporary. In my experience medication (in very few, but still some) cases is necessary- it puts a stop to the spiritual experiences so the person can become more functional. Nobody likes hospitalization, but if it needs to happen it needs to happen.

The “trick” here is even if drastic intervention is necessary, it does not need to be necessary for the rest of their existence. So if someone is destabilized enough that they need hospitalization or medication, allow for that care to save your loved ones life. When they are out of danger, even if they are still in the care of a psychiatrist, even when they are medicated, start working with a bodyworker, Acupuncturist, and a Spiritual Worker so they can process the trauma and experiences they have had and through the Spiritual Worker learn the tools they need.

In some cases, long term medication, or life-long medication needs to happen. In many cases, this does not need to happen. Titration of the medication can occur when the person learns tools and re-stablizes after their experiences. It is up to you, as an advocate for your loved one, as well as your loved on themselves, to express (or unfortunately demand in some cases) a plan for doctor supervised titration of medication, and to make a plan for the side effects of titration (such as acupuncture appointments and herbal medicine) as well as to come to a new sense of normalcy after being medicated for a while.

Spiritual awakening is a healing process. At some points it can get overwhelming, especially for friends and family who have no direct experience or understanding of what is going on. For very few, it is a process that needs to be stopped, medicated, and treated long-term through psychiatry and hospitalization. Although I am not an advocate for allopathic approaches such as medication and hospitalization, I recognize the need for it to happen in some cases, but would like for them in the vast majority of cases to be thought of as temporary and/or life-saving rather than a permanent solution to spiritual awakening issues. The vast majority of people undergoing spiritual awakening may just need the right tools and understandings to navigate their experiences, as well as the right practitioners and loved ones to help them through, before the experiences get to be too intense.

Mary Shutan, L.Ac, CST-D, CZB, ABT offers mini consultations (20 minute phone/Skype calls) and full length consultations (60 minutes) via Phone/Skype to people who wish to find out how to help their loved ones through a spiritual awakening, or wish to have a better understanding of the process. You may contact her here for appointments.

Spiritual Emergency, Therapy, and Hospitalization

Generally when we get sick most of us go to a doctor. If the sickness is physical we are put through blood tests, various proddings, and scans to assess what organs or systems in our body are not working well. If the sickness is not physical, or is primarily considered emotional (even if it has significant physical components), or the doctor simply cannot find anything wrong despite complaints of pain and decreased functioning they will either give pharmaceuticals or will advise the patient to seek out a mental health professional.

In cases of spiritual issues the modern allopathic community still defines anything not physical or mechanistic as being in the realm of psychiatrists or psychotherapy. If we were to put this in basic terms, spiritual emergency or issues stemming from a spiritual process would not fit into any paradigm they know so they typically consider it “other” and tell people what they are experiencing is all in their heads- that they need a shrink.

I have personally never found therapy helpful, so I can be a bit biased on this subject, but I have certainly treated and worked with numerous mental health professionals who are quite lovely and competent at their jobs. Here we encounter a bit of difficulty. Psychotherapy, although on its fringes is invested in interest in the spirit, interest in the soul, by and large is interested in the mind and emotions. This may be a fruitful endeavor for some of you, as going through spiritual issues brings up past traumas and emotional experiences that are overwhelming and having a safe space to discuss them can be helpful.

However in a spiritual process the actual spiritual process must be understood. The emotions and mental experiences coming up are significant, of course, but unless the spiritual process is fully understood and the reasoning for the emotions coming up is understood, the therapist will be placing significance on the mind, on the mental, on the emotional, and the processing of the lower emotions rather than a focus on the greater spiritual process occurring. The focus in therapy is a return from “aberrant” behavior to normalcy (wake to sleep) in order to make the person functional according to manuals, commonly accepted paradigms and considered normal behavior by a society that is mostly asleep and feels the need for such rules and control. The truth is that someone who is awakened will not fit into any manual of what is considered “normal” or “proper” for society. They should be able to function reasonably according to societal conventions (going to the grocery store, etc) but beyond that experiences of someone who is spiritual awakening are so far off from what is commonly understood and accepted by conventional society that efforts to stuff them into a diagnosis and treat them as imbalanced, insane, or ill will prove futile. There is a cognitive dissonance for people who are still asleep to understand anyone who is not, and the efforts to bring someone back to the implicit rules, patterns, thoughts, and energetic grids of constriction that restrict most of us into sleep when someone has broken free from them by the psychiatric profession, therapists, and counselors who simply are ignorant of the process is quite sad and at times harmful to those who could really use spiritually-based help.

In cases of spiritual emergency, where the individual is so overwhelmed by their spiritual process that they have lost the ability to function and may be experiencing a wide variety of severe and even life-threatening physical, mental, emotional, energetic, and spiritual symptoms, therapists are part of the system set up- they can advise on the need for hospitalization when necessary (and yes, for some hospitalization is necessary). Although hospitalization is necessary in some cases there is a basic lack of understanding of spiritual emergency. Although I will write about this in another blog post, there is a huge difference between someone who is genuinely going through a psychotic break or is severely mentally ill and has such a fractured sense of self that they will require extensive hospitalizations, medication, and so forth, and people who are going through severe spiritual crises that may require long-term or short-term hospitalization, medication, and care. In many cases individuals going through spiritual awakening are medicated and treated as mentally or physically ill when their issues are spiritual and would best be treated by a spiritual provider or healer who deeply understands the spiritual awakening process. Unfortunately this differentiation is not understood at all, and so people undergoing short-term severe spiritual issues are medicated and hospitalized long-term because of improper care, and the genuinely mentally ill fractured soul who may require medication and/or hospitalization may believe that they are going through an intense spiritual awakening and will not receive proper care, and the person who is reasonably functional but going through a spiritual process may find themselves medicated or engaged in therapy that doesn’t help them.

And on its fringes therapists and other mental health professionals have been interested in spiritual emergency, a term coined by psychiatrist Stanislav Grof, and many therapists who have studied with him or consider themselves “transpersonal” or Jungian are invested in working with the spiritual through the lens of modern psychiatric and therapeutic doctrines. There are therapeutic networks, research, and other interesting work being done (and that has been done) for decades now enmeshing the spiritual with the psychiatric with varying degrees of success.

The difficulty with working with spiritual awakenings, spiritual emergency, and spiritual processes of all sorts through the lens of modern therapy, psychiatry, and the various lenses of mental health is that they define spiritual processes and spiritual awakening as an aberration, a disease, or at the various least something negative that has occurred. They have a paradigm- one that can be helpful in some ways… if you are so non-functional or ill that you require 24/7 care or are in severe mental, physical, emotional danger hospitalization may be the way to go.

However while the ability to diagnose someone as needing intensive medical care such as hospitalization can be important and even life-saving in some cases, spiritual awakening is not an aberration, it is not a disease, it is not an imbalance even. It is so easy to put things into the DSM-V (the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders) or to conduct studies blaming everything from too much meditation to drug usage to fragile mental states in the issues that present with spiritual awakenings. What is not understood by modern therapy, even those included in “spiritual networks” or who work with those undergoing spiritual awakenings is that it is not a negative process, even though it can result in issues that outwardly seem negative. By this I mean that spiritual awakenings are difficult. They bring up physical issues, pain, in some cases near-death states, mental and emotional issues, there will be strong energies that clear out our bodies, bring up the past traumas and issues not only from our lives but from our ancestors, our families, our community, the world. It is an isolating process, it is difficult to function, and the spiritual understandings and sheer amount of material that come up in some of the stronger awakenings (such as Kundalini awakenings or Shamanic callings) can be nearly impossible to integrate into daily functioning and interaction with a world that is not awake.

But this is not a negative, it is not an aberration that has occurred, it is not pathological, and it should not be treated as such. If anything it is a biological process of allowing for us to wake up to our highest potential. The intent of any type of spiritual process is to allow for us to process all of the energies, all of the traumas and emotions, all of the physical issues… everything that is weighing us down so that we can remember who we truly are and claim our power. In our world anything that is painful, any emotions or experiences that are not considered “normal” or are outside of the understanding of the mainstream are to be treated so that we can return to a state of sleep, a state of numbness. Many of us may wish to go back to sleep, to return to “normal”, to not feel pain physically or emotionally, to not have the spiritual understandings and separateness that those understandings mean. We are a culture that fears power, that fears individuation, that fears the unknown. We do not want to surrender, we do not want to let go and allow for the pain, the processing that true spiritual awakening creates. Instead we treat the process as a pathological state, numb our physical, emotional, and energetic sensations. In the early stages of spiritual awakening we are unable to have much of the bliss, the ecstacy, the love that comes from clearing all of our gunk out. We are so mired in sleep, in gunk, in conditioning and trauma and patterns and they are so painful to remove that we are ignorant and cannot see that we are gaining power, we are becoming more ourselves, we are achieving greater understandings, we are having sneak peeks of bliss, ecstatic states, and profound peace.

Some of us may be going through such an overwhelming process that talk therapy with an experienced therapist, medication, and hospitalization may be required. If we are reasonably functional and have a bit of knowledge we can understand spiritual awakening as a process, a positive process at that, rather than something that necessitates numbing through the current allopathic paradigm. By understanding that this is a biological process- that we are “waking up” to our true selves, our true potential- and that we are processing everything that stands in the way of that we can learn to work through it and come out the other side instead of putting ourselves back to sleep or focusing on the negative aspects of the experience.

Since this is an experience that is difficult to understand unless experienced directly, and many people who are in the beginning stages of “waking up” simply create more illusions (of control, rules, saying, belief systems, fears, and practices) that serve only to constrict and do not allow for deeper levels of surrender and processing, much of the information on spiritual awakenings is rather meaningless, feel-good sort of information that most of us truly going through spiritual awakenings will find frustrating or will see through as illusory. By learning simple tools, by understanding what you are going through, and by surrendering all of muck and grime and conditioning can be cleared. The more grime and conditioning we clear the more we become ourselves, the more joy we feel, the less symptoms we have, the more we understand what is “true” for us and claim our own power. It is a beautiful thing to witness when someone makes it through the storm of the spiritual process to feel the sheer amount of peace and flow that lies beyond.

What is a Top-Down Awakening?


You can find more information about awakenings, including Top Down Awakenings, in my book, The Spiritual Awakening Guide.

So what is a Top-Down Awakening?
A Top-Down awakening in simple terms means that your crown and third eye chakras are open and that you have quite a bit of energy surrounding your head and shoulders. Basically, you are receiving input from the heaven/sky but not the earth. Due to genetics, spiritual pursuits, or other reasons you have opened yourself to the divine, to spirit, and to the different and hidden layers of realty. It is fairly easy actually to open to spirit and to begin to be more connected to spiritual matters.

Many people end up with this type of awakening because they became interested in spiritual pursuits, started attending classies, doing drugs, reading literature, and finding gurus and other teachers who show them how to seek outside of themselves. Others begin life with a top-down awakening due to family history of psychic abilities or previous life abilities carried forward into this life.

The issue with this type of awakening is that it is not grounded in anything. It is not required to do much personal work or to open your first three chakras to have this type of awakening. The person experiencing this type of awakening begins to separate from this earth, this reality. They often will claim to not want to be here, or to originate from elsewhere. This very much may be true, but a recognition of the human body, the body that you are carrying this lifetime, and a desire to be grounded and do personal work which is often quite difficult is necessary for a full awakening or to come to a state of balance if you are experiencing this type of awakening.

What are other symptoms or experiences of the Top-Down awakened?
The person undergoing a top-down awakening will have immense energy circulating into their crown, third eye, and around their head and shoulders. Unfortunately for the experiencer of this, the energy is not able to move much further down because the throat chakra and heart chakra require the lower chakras to be open to open themselves. So the energy is stuck in the upper body- leading to a bottleneck of energy, headaches, neck pain, disassociation, ego issues (these are some of the people who tell others how awakened they are or that they are enlightened but still are quite judgemental and lack focus on their own issues), and significant mental health issues including mania and depression can develop.

It is also quite common for the Top-Down awakened to be in a great deal of physical pain. Hip, back, foot, and leg pain are prevalent, but the all-over pain that comes with issues such as Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia, and other Autoimmune and Connective Tissue disorders are common in this category. It is also common for the experiencer to carry weight around the mid-section but have thin legs, and a constant raising of the shoulders towards the ears.

Other symptoms include: being open to spiritual guidance, psychic abilities, mediumship and channeling capabilities, understanding of patterns and concepts from a different vantage point (which is due to many of these individuals being halfway out of their body so they really do have a different perspective), headaches, sinus pain, closed off feelings in the throat, thyroid issues, cravings for meat, chocolate, carbohydrates, or other grounding foods, delusions, paranoia, and feelings of heaviness or stuckness in the shoulders, upper back, heart, neck, and head.

What is happening energetically to the Top-Down awakened?
This is a significant energetic imbalance, and the energetic field of the experiencer often appears to look like an inverted cone. Often the experiencer is partially or fully out of their bodies/disassociated, and they prefer to remain this way. They feel different and separate from everyone else, and some remain in elaborately set up illusions of their own creation. This is because they Top-Down awakened has awakened enough to be able to manifest, but for this group it is rarely on a conscious level- so the creation of significant blocks, illusions, and other issues of a spiritual and physical nature is quite common due a relay of unprocessed personal and emotional material creating reality for them.

A Top-Down awakening can be extremely beneficial to open psychic abilities. It gives you the ability to connect with spirit, and the ultimate ability to connect to true divinity.

What are the difficulties of this type of Awakening?
This type of awakening is BY FAR the most common awakening to get stuck in. It also can be the most dangerous because it creates an environment energetically where you are not quite a part of any reality. With the ability to easily shift through dimensions, times, perspectives, and being fully or partially out of your body, it creates opportunity for other energies to attach, and for you to lose a sense of identity or purpose. Without the support that earth and grounding offers, it is difficult to filter the intense energies that are coming through. The more the lower chakras are blocked the worse the imbalance is.

With this type of awakening it is common to see people keep their spiritual lives and their physical lives quite separate. By this, I mean that they may be all about love, light, angels, and awakening in workshops or online, but in their daily lives they are often quite miserable and do not want to participate in life. Often I work with people struggling with depression and anxiety who put on an outward appearance, a mask of being spiritual and enlightened but in their daily lives they are struggling to function, to engage with others, or to want to be on Earth.

The other difficulty with the top-down awakening is that it is difficult for people to want to do their personal work. It can be fun to go to workshops, to visit gurus, to spiritually seek. For the experiencer to be healed, to come to a state of balance,  or to progress further in their spiritual path, they must begin to do the personal work that they have been avoiding. To let go of the ego, the Facebook memes that tell you what awakening is supposed to be like, and go internally to find out is a scary proposition. By working through personal baggage and reestablishing a personal connection with the Earth, with ancestry, and by dropping the mask that comes with being spiritual comes a state of balance, strength, power, and full realization.