The spine and the brain are the altars of God– Yogananda
One of the long-ignored symptoms of a kundalini awakening is back pain and/or headaches. While this may happen in a more gentle, or less intensive awakening as well, the realization that our spine is an important energetic center, or highway, in our bodies, and the link to physical symptoms such as back and neck pain, isn’t discussed terribly often.
Our chakras emerge from and through the spine (yes, I am being simple with this), and the sushumna, ida, and pingala (which form the caduceus) are the primary energetic circuit in our body, forming the basis for our physical as well as spiritual nervous systems.
In a kundalini awakening, the divine/cosmic energy (that allows one to move onto the path of realization) lies dormant in most, but in awakenings emerges from the perineum/first chakra and rises up the back. This experience may range from completely subtle and temporary (lasting for an instant, or an hour, or at most a week) to explosive and volcanic, wreaking havoc on the life of the person it exploded within.
Most researchers talk about kundalini awakening as if it is a temporary state, or refer to “neuro-kundalini”, which is a term for the type of kundalini awakening that emerges with some mild nervous system issues and for a specific phase of life. I believe that these were mostly people who did not experience a “full” kundalini awakening, which is a bit different.
“Full” kundalini awakenings are permanent. While there are waves and tides and generally over time the process gets easier in many ways, the permanent release of kundalini within the body means that it is not a singular experience, but an ever-unfolding process that will carry the person forward into realization. Whether this means kicking and screaming, being stuck and unwilling to surrender, or through tumultuous waters and then ever-increasing beauty and serenity… or through the abyss and then bliss until what needs to be healed and revealed and released has done so, the process can be a thing of great beauty or great fear, sometimes simultaneously.
In Chinese Medicine, the channels that split us into left and right parts are called the du and ren (the du on the back midline/the spine and neck, the ren going from the genitals up the body); these are termed extraordinary channels because of the depth of these channels, as well as their connection to our spiritual nature. In Chinese Medicine, the du and ren are pure “yin” and “yang”, feminine and masculine, dark and light. If we break everything down into a form of duality, these are represented by the du and ren. Basically, this is “out of the one emerges two… emerges ten thousand things” sort of thing (badly quoted tao te ching).
These channels (du and ren) are formed first, and are the basis of our being… they take us from singularity (or oneness) into creation– something that has physical manifestation. Basically, they are our first step in our emergence as a physical, human being.
We are not a structure from which energy flows, however. We are energy. We are energy that has come together and compressed and formed us for the purposes of this lifetime. We are energies from our ancestry and ancestors and past lives and family and society and history and the culture from which we are born and the world as well as our own unique expression of divine energy (you can read about these layers in my Spiritual Awakening Guide).
The difficulty on the spiritual path, of course, is that unique expression of divine energy is seemingly beneath all of the other stuff I listed above. The spiritual awakening process is really healing all of that stuff, surrendering all of that stuff, so we can move beyond our brokenness and stories and ego and everything within us that is fractured, angry, and separate to realize our own unique divine expression, our core energy.
Rather than this creating great difficulty for us, or further fracturing us, the reveal of this central energy brings peace, relief, and connection on the deepest levels. It is strengthening, and quite beautiful.
Ironically (or perhaps just unexpectedly– I have an ongoing discussion about modern usage of the word “ironic” with a friend) what happens is that when we remove everything that tells us that we are separate, we release our needs for superiority, or feelings of inferiority, our feelings of being unloved and unwanted and broken beyond repair, is that we discover who we are. And we discover that through realizing that we are not just a singular being, not a “true self” or even a “core self” but that we are deeply connected beyond measure. That we are much more than a single human expression of something.
We are compressed energy that has come together… a unique expression of that energy… and that letting go of who we thought we were, all of our fears and stories and unhealed baggage, we can come to a state where we both deeply understand who we are and what we are supposed to do, as well as realize the limitations of our human form, as well as realize that in the grand scheme of things that who we are and what we are and our daily human-based issues are not terribly important.
Even having this connection for a moment allows you to realize that it is there. If you recognize this once– this direct experience of oneness (non-intellectualized, but deeply felt and then the ego allowing it to be an expression of becoming humbled rather than something to brag about in order to maintain a need for superiority based off of still feeling separate. Our minds sometimes will do anything to preserve separation, including utilizing the momentary feeling of “all that is” as a form of energy to create a mask, or story, to allow the person to stop on their journey and not move forward. Why might that person not want to move forward or to actually integrate their experience? Because the realization that you are incredibly small and yet so fully connected and loved and held is too much for people. They are not worthy, who is worthy of actually doing such a thing? Of feeling that connection?. This causes a lot of people to retract and then get stuck in ego awakenings– again, see my book– in which they stop themselves from moving on from that point and use their experience to fuel whatever remaining wounding and stuck belief systems remain).
So where does the spine and head come into this?
As I describe such things, please remember that this is a 1500 word blog or so. This means that I am not offering a dissertation here. There are a few things to consider when we realize that the spine and head form a primary circuit, basically meaning the core energetic structure, or loop, or center, of our bodies.
This contains our nervous system. For the sake of simplicity, I will say that we have a physical and then a spiritual nervous system. Our nervous system is responsible for states you may remember from high school biology class: fight or flight and rest and digest (or sympathetic and parasympathetic).
Our nervous system basically is how our body communicates with its varying parts. Our brain communicates via the “highways” that are set up. The difficulty is that most of our nervous systems are not in great shape. We are a highly stressed culture, and a whole host of digestive, heart, depressive, anxiety, and host of illnesses start to happen when our nervous system gets out of whack (which causes our muscles and organs and immune system and basically everything in our body to not do so well either).
The other difficulty is that our nervous system is how we receive information energetically/spiritually. From the energetic anatomy of our chakras, the nervous system (first spiritual, then physical, to be simple) is the first recipient of spiritual energy, the first interface between spiritual and physical.
This information is then transmitted to the rest of our bodies, but it gains access to us through our nervous system. This means that a system that may already be struggling can interact in a spiritual capacity, or have a kundalini or other significant awakening, and easily fry their nervous system(s).
This also means that if this “highway” is not burnt out, if the interface is clear and well-kept, this means that a “pure” flow of spiritual/divine energy can come through. This is deeply healing, and can actually heal the once-fried nervous system. Accessing this takes time, however, and the more time that has passed since my own “fryings”, the more I realize that gaining knowledge of how to heal the nervous system, how to repair this system, are a form of initiation; a knowledge that can allow you to heal and to heal others in ways that would not have happened if your system had not been “fried”.
As mentioned, the kundalini when awakened flows through the spinal column. It does this through the cerebrospinal fluid. This is the fluid that cushions and protects the brain and spinal column– it flows through it. Although drastic kundalini awakenings are often felt as if a volcano or out of control forest fire are decimating or purifying the body, there is a flow to kundalini that emerges in later stages. This flow can be felt through the spinal column (typically with imagery of snakes, “ladders”/DNA, light pouring through the spinal column, and so forth) and will typically arise to the brain, unless there are significant stoppages in the process.
In the back of the skull is one of the most significant spiritual points in the body. This is where the skull meets the back of the neck. In some Vedic traditions, I have heard this point referred to as “the mouth of God”, and in some Native Traditions I have heard this referred to as a point where there is direct access to the soul.
This is a point that also energetically separates the head from the body, the brain from the spinal cord. Many of us live solely in our heads (I look at people and often just see a big swirl around their heads, and no embodiment or energy anywhere else) and there are a lot of trauma-based reasons why we may not wish to connect our heads to our hearts. How many would really like to know what their heart is truly saying to them?
This is an area associated with the medulla and pons, deep structures within the brain that begin to rewire the nervous system as well as the other “grids” that make up the body once accessed (or, “lighted up), and then energetically transmit to the third eye, where ida and pingala meet, and the realization of reality as illusion begins to be realized.
This is also an area that magically is associated with telepathy, and people who tend to take on the thoughts of others, or are sensitive to others gossiping about them, tend to have a fair amount of pain or obstruction here. It is also a place that is typically more “open”, meaning that it can both be utilized as a gateway to access larger spiritual energies but can also be utilized as a sort of “achilles heel” and attacked during spiritual work.
But this is an access point, or a sort of gateway. If you have energy flowing through your system and into your brain this flow can be felt, it can be tasted, and seen as light that is coming from the inside out. Often a powerful realization of oneness is had, and the experience then allows for the realization of permanent connection to divinity to occur.
This is an important realization because you can always carry it with you from that point on. No matter what happens, the invariable knives and anvils and unfortunate experiences that being human sometimes create, there is a realization of connection, as well as a moving past your own wounding to the extent that you are no longer responding from past beliefs, traumas, or fears (or that of your ancestors and so forth).
Our spinal column and head form our energetic center. Our crown opens to the “heavens” and our root chakra to the “earth”, and through them we draw energy to sustain us, to feed our energetic circuits, and to realize how deeply we are truly connected.
Although we can certainly feel flow through the rest of our body, and the flow of kundalini does go through the arms and legs, the primary way that we are connected is through our nervous system via our chakras and the channels that form the basis of the energies in our bodies (our du and ren). They are the altar to God, and as we awaken, we allow energy to flow through our spine and head, releasing the previous traumas and separateness that we have once held on to.
By the way, as many of you may know, I have a background in CranioSacral therapy (both biodynamic as well as “Upledger”, in case you were “in the know” about such things), and the reason that I love it so much is because it focuses on the cerebrospinal fluid, the spine, as well as the head and all of its nooks and crannies. Whether someone who is a CranioSacral therapist will consider it a “spiritual” act (or if they simply got interested because of the mechanistic approach to it) is a different thing entirely.
But I highly suggest finding someone with at least five-ten years of experience who is also certified in this modality. I also suggest finding someone who directly studied with the Upledger Institute or is affiliated/approved by the Biodynamic Craniosacral association, as modalities like this don’t have much regulation and some teachers out there don’t have much training themselves (or are certifying people without being certified). I do not assist people in finding a CranioSacral therapist in their area. Google and phone calls/email to assess whether whomever you are interacting with fits your needs is your best bet.
Mary Mueller Shutan is a spiritual worker, teacher, author, and is skilled in many different modes of body-based healing such as Craniosacral Therapy. You can find more information on body-based spiritual healing in her book, The Body Deva: Working with the Spiritual Consciousness of the Body.