As someone who has been Working with Kundalini for close to two decades now, both personally and professionally, I have found that it is a topic that is often unclear and confusing to people. 

This is true of all large spiritual concepts, which are often things that need to be directly experienced and felt to be understood because they are ineffable, or beyond mere words. 

This is especially true of the topic of kundalini, which sounds exotic and advanced to spiritual aspirants. Such a concept is grasped onto: shifted and changed to meet spiritual aspirants who recognize a spiritual void within themselves but often are incredible distanced from their spiritual natures to the extent that they reach for the most advanced sounding labels in an attempt to fill the void that they feel.

Grasping for power is nothing new, but it is part of the reason why attempting to study kundalini or kundalini awakening is so difficult.

Here are some of the misconceptions and myths that I have been approached with by clients and students regarding kundalini over the years:

Kundalini is a ten year process

I am honestly not sure where this started. It seems to be a recent suggestion. I would guess that some spiritual teacher made this comment and their students grabbed onto it as some sort of spiritual truth. 

Kundalini awakening can happen for a moment. It can happen for several years. It can also be a lifelong (or many lifetime) process of evolution. It will be different for each person based on what is blocking their recognition of inherent consciousness (kundalini).

At ten years I have seen people still locked in ego awakening, never having taken the first step on their path. At ten years I have seen people have full kundalini awakenings (a permanent state of evolution) who are incredibly conscious but still suffering considerably. At ten years I have seen a few people with kundalini awakenings whose processes have calmed down considerably and have moved beyond the need to define themselves as anything, seeing labels like “kundalini” and “enlightenment” as illusions.

Kundalini as a permanent state is one of continual evolution. There is no end to it. Our consciousness can always expand, no matter who we are.

Copyright Mary Mueller Shutan

Kundalini and twin flames

I believe that this started in the early 90’s. I haven’t seen anything much earlier than the start of the Westernized tantra movement for the concept of twin flames being intertwined with kundalini.

There is nothing outside of you (and no person) that is needed to complete you. 

Kundalini awakening is the rising of “yin” energies (the feminine, coiled up as kundalini energy in the sacrum) to meet “yang” energies of the head (the masculine). They then intertwine and inform one another, rather than being at odds with one another. 

Kundalini awakenings allow for us to recognize our full continuum, from masculine to feminine, and then to move beyond such polarities into a state of ambiguity.

This has nothing to do with outer definition of sex, gender, etc. by the way. No matter how we define ourselves, spiritual awakening is about embracing our totality.

The finish line and the permanent state of happiness

One of the ironies of spiritual awakening and enlightenment is that many of us start looking for something deeper because we have been traumatized or because we sense that something is inherently wrong with ourselves and/or the world. Perhaps we see that most of the people in the world are leading unhappy lives, desperate lives, and are looking for something beyond that. Often these factors are all present.

The irony of this is that we grasp for labels and ideas that are presented to us by New Age gurus that a state of enlightenment essentially means a state of sociopathy or a state of complete and total bliss constantly.

So someone who either has no emotions whatsoever, or someone is essentially stuck, only experiencing an emotion like bliss or happiness.

Awakening allows for a state of flow. It isn’t being stuck or focused on the present– it is the past, present, and future combining, co-comingling– where we have let go of the safety and security of our stuckness and can simply flow with things like uncertainty and change.

The ego desires things like a static finish line. A label to ensure that we are seen as separate and superior. A state beyond our suffering where we only experience happiness. Kundalini awakening eventually results in a giving up of these labels, and a healing and deconstructing of the ego enough times so that we no longer need to feel different, superior, special, or further along than other people.

We are all divine in different ways. Recognition of the divinity and humanity of one another– seeing where we truly connect to one another and seeing ourselves reflected in one another like a mirror– is a state of consciousness that is a unifying one. One that allows for us to simply live our lives.

Put more simply, the irony is that when you get close enough to any spiritual concept, like a “finish line”, “enlightenment” etc. that concept breaks away. It shows itself as false. You can then move beyond the need for that concept and label and recognize that you used it as a way to separate yourself from others and the whole.

Spiritual awakening is simple, easy, and silver bullet ideologies

Spiritual awakening is truly the most difficult thing anyone can do. It is asking someone to take responsibility for themselves, again and again. It is asking someone to look at what is problematic and out of balance in their lives again and again.

In spiritual awakening this is made easier because we can be aware that what we are being shown– within and without– is a pattern or imbalance that can be healed and resolved.

There is no silver bullet. Nobody gets to be enlightened in two minutes, and if someone is done with their spiritual process in a few months that means that they have decided not to continue any further… not that they are enlightened. 

We can have spiritual experiences, including states of consciousness that may be described as varying states of enlightenment, that deeply transform us. These experiences often require decades of integration. We cannot make sense of them in the moment, and they transform us body, mind, and soul to the extent that we may not understand just how transformative they were until an incredible amount of time has passed.

But one of the easiest ways to tell that someone is immersed in an ego awakening (from my book, the Spiritual Awakening Guide, but basically it is the playing of the role of spiritual aspirant without ever authentically walking the path) is that they say that their spiritual awakening was easy or that they became enlightened or have fully risen kundalini in a few months or years.

This has everything to do with Western notions that come from deep fragmentation and enough distance from spiritual reality that it is believed that mastery can come from little to no effort, quickly, and with no difficulty.

This also has to do with ignorance. Even a cursory glance at the lives of saints and realized individuals who have shared their exceptional journeys will show that they have suffered immense hardships. 

However, I will mention that the spiritual awakening process is easier on some people than others. This is typically because they either have a significant background in mind-body-spirit care (having a kundalini awakening after twenty years of yoga and/or spiritual education will still be difficult, but the person will have the framework and will have done much of the preparatory work to have the experience go much better) or because they have a teacher, mentor, or practice that allows for them to know how to work with energy in a healthy way.

Even for those individuals the evolution of mind, body, and spirit is not an easy task, or a quick one.

Kundalini shows weakness and imbalances in the mind, body, and spirit, and while people like to think that it is “solved” by esoteric means, often tending to areas of personal weakness– whether those be diet, mental-emotional, or spiritual– will be of the most assistance. Most people I meet who are truly suffering with the first stages of kundalini awakening (stuck in trauma or their ego is resisting the changes that come with kundalini awakening) could use some basic dietary and herbal advice (in my book, Working with Kundalini) as well as to begin a physical workout regimen to ensure that the energies of kundalini can flow through the physical form well.

Kundalini means that I will always suffer

Many of the individuals I have worked with who are experiencing a genuine kundalini awakening believe that their suffering will go on forever. They feel as if they will always be in a place where at any moment a huge wave of emotions or energies will upend their existence. 

One thing that is really helpful to understand is that kundalini awakening does require a lot of energy. Not only in the sense that kundalini (consciousness rising) is not only bringing up latent trauma and emotions held within the body, but that it is also opening the channels or meridians of the body. We can consider enlightenment to be embodiment and consciousness (“flow”) successfully flowing through every cell in the body.

In later stages, kundalini awakening requires a lot of energy because it is transforming the essence of your body (“unrefined” sexual energies) into refined consciousness.

Kundalini awakening is not something that takes someone away from the world but temporarily. I do very much empathize with people who are attempting to work and tend to life while experiencing a kundalini awakening. It truly is difficult at times. 

Most people I know who have authentically gone through kundalini awakenings require some time away from society in order to gain perspective and to allow the energy to work through their systems.

However, much of the suffering tends to die down once the crown chakra is pierced. This is not a temporary experience. This is the three and a half “curls” of kundalini rising and straightening through the midline successfully. 

I will also mention yet again that experiences of higher consciousness do not mean a state of permanent anything. It is a state of flow and a state of individuation– acceptance and experiencing of all of our emotions and aspects of self. 

It is one thing to be led blindly by emotions we have stockpiled within and feel we are at war with. When we separate ourselves from our emotions they will operate without our consciousness control. 

When we accept our emotions and learn to release that stockpile, we can begin to recognize that our emotions are not “bad”: they are simply messengers. They are giving us important information that we can learn to listen to (to learn how to do this, I suggest my book, The Body Deva).

When we separate from our emotions we are separating from parts of our vital energy.

We are separating from parts of our consciousness, and telling ourselves that aspects of ourselves are “bad” or not worthy. Our anger is not bad. Neither is our fear or joy. 

Awakening means fully celebrating and accepting all aspects of ourselves and feeling… perhaps for the first time.

We live in a world in which conditioning is so thick that tells us not to feel. This has gotten to the point that people look for this in their gurus and teachers and create illusion after illusion that would allow for them to separate from their emotions and to disassociate from their lives.

Awakening allows us to fully feel and experience reality, both inwardly and outwardly. If someone is telling you that you shouldn’t feel because a lamp doesn’t feel, or is gearing you towards not feeling or recognizing your emotions, what they are trying to do is to lead you away from your inner states, from your inner guru, and from any type of inner realization.

It is much easier to have power over people when you lead them away from their emotions, as when we do not recognize our emotions we cannot listen to our intuition. This is dangerous for a lot of reasons– in particular because it is setting the person up to always look externally– towards a person or towards an experience of illusory reality and an illusory finish that they will never achieve– because it is a total fabrication.

We should experience all of our emotions. There are some methods of working with emotions that allow for distance and witnessing of them so that we can not be so immersed in them. But methods of working with emotions should always lead to acceptance and honoring of them– which allows for us to eventually listen to them, to work with them in a healthy, adult way, and to (most significantly) learn to utilize them as the source of fuel and vitality and creativity that they allow for us to tap into.

Kundalini awakening means that people will be really compassionate

I find the idea of “compassion” and how it has been distorted by our conditioning to be a fascinating discussion. Generally the idea of compassion in modern spiritual circles means fitting in with really harmful conditioning about being passive, being quiet, and not creating any issues for anyone (despite abuse, bullying, wrong-doing).

Generally people who have awakened kundalini to any degree will have shakti emanate from them. Basically, they will have people drawn to them due to their presence. This is how (some) spiritual teachers get students. But this doesn’t mean that they aren’t critical, or that they fit in with the detrimental sort of “niceness” that gets promoted by people… typically people who are so privileged that they can be passive, that they don’t need to confront the injustices and power imbalances of this world on a regular basis.

Generally I find that people holding on to this type of moralizing “compassion” are people who are endlessly unhappy in their own existences because they are divorced from any instinct within (anger, aggression, the capacity to harm) and projecting their need for perfection outward onto others in a way that drastically interferes with their lives.

They could stand to come into contact with their inner fire, their inner anger, and their inner healthy critic that allows for them to stand up for themselves when it is appropriate to (rather than go into trauma responses like the “fawn” response which means conceding the self to others in an effort to be “nice).

Criticism is how our culture moves forward. Fields of study languish without critique. Compassion means the ability to say “no” and to have healthy boundaries and to sometimes tell people things that they don’t wish to hear. We all should come into contact with the forces within that would allow us to be violent, angry, or speak our truth. We can consciously decide then to not do those things… but it is one thing to be totally separated from these instincts and capacities, and another to have them be a recognized part of us and to consciously choose from a range of options how we want to react and act in any given situation.

I cannot stress enough how harmful the ideology of this type of passive “compassion” is to people who then cannot give themselves permission to see reality clearly (including people who have harmed them, or are harming them) or who remain passive, never experiencing life and never having a voice, because to say something that someone (somewhere) might not like may cause for them to go into a trauma response of feeling vulnerable and thus threatened.

This type of mentality allows for all sorts of abuse to be deemed “okay”, and for people to never speak up because they need to be “compassionate”. For people to never ask for what they truly need and want (from others, or out of life). 

Some of my spiritual teachers were quite brutal. This is not romanticizing this type of brutality, but the teachers who have no boundaries because they are trying to be “nice” are also the ones who had no contact with their anger… which means that they had little passion, vitality, or consciousness beyond their childlike need to be nice and compassionate, and could only take me so far in terms of their own knowledge/self-awareness.

Kundalini awakening is just the nervous system releasing

Trauma and tension releasing from the body typically do so through the nervous system. This can include small tics, shaking, and feelings of cold or heat releasing.

It is understandable to confuse this with kundalini awakening, but I would compare this to a small stream of energy vs. a massive waterfall. 

Kundalini awakening does release through the nervous system. It certainly activates the nervous system (the physical nervous system as well as the spiritual nervous system, which would include the chakras which are on the midline), and will often create issues with the Vagal nerve in particular. 

But the energy flowing through is much different, and serves a different purpose. Someone experiencing trauma release through their nervous system will experience greater clarity, healing, and resolution of trauma. So will someone experiencing kundalini awakening. But in kundalini awakening, there are large transformations of consciousness and the symptoms are much more severe. Think massive shaking going through the system rather than finger twitching; think spontaneous yoga postures with memories and emotions flooding the system resulting in substantial shifts in beliefs and how one sees reality. 

Kundalini awakening and chat rooms

The largest source of kundalini misinformation often comes from people questioning online. I do think that learning to separate helpful from non-helpful information is really important on any spiritual path.

I would even say that we find our “level”– we find the ideas and people that resonate with us at a specific type of consciousness that would be of most benefit to us. We then tend to reject things that are beyond our current level, or those levels that we have already initiated beyond.

However, I would be aware that there is a reason why people are on chat rooms and message boards. Typically, it is because they are still seeking. This means that people offering advice may be incredibly helpful. They may be in a position where they can offer fabulous advice because they are a step or two beyond where you are and know exactly how you are feeling and what you are experiencing.

It can also be an incredible source of misinformation. I don’t really know of anyone who spends their time in such places attempting to assert authority/offer advice unless they are still in seeker mode and there is an egoic need to be seen a specific way. Meaning, they may not have the best advice. It may in fact be incredibly detrimental in some cases.

I am mentioning this because over the years I have sadly heard of many cases of sexual abuse and incredibly detrimental advice that have caused for people to be anything from really confused to quite traumatized. Be careful out there, and never give your authority or power to anyone. Always listen to your intuition. If something feels wrong, it is. Any competent spiritual teacher will lead you back to yourself and how you can best navigate your inner world in a healthy, life-affirming way.

For more information regarding kundalini awakenings, I suggest my book, Working with Kundalini. It is a result of two decades of research, my own experiences, as well as working with thousands of clients and students and seeing where people tend to get stuck in their process.

It offers real solutions and help to those who are suffering, and is meant for people who are wanting a clear model of kundalini awakening, what it is, and how it presents in the modern world.

Mary Mueller Shutan is the author of several books, including The Spiritual Awakening Guide and Working with Kundalini.

She also offers self-guided courses, including Spiritual Awakening for Clinicians and her Meditation Course.