I was taking a swing dance class a few years ago and repeating the same spins over and over for a full hour. Suddenly I felt a rushing sense like a fire ignited at the base of my spine, filling my pelvis and beginning to move upwards.
I had never experienced that kind of thing before but I knew it had something to do with the kundalini. I had no clue what would happen next. I was panicked about being in a public place. “No!” I thought, “Not here! Not now!” Suddenly the experience was over. I walked to the foyer, changed my shoes and headed for the car. I never went back to the dance class.
Afterward I did some research into the whirling dervish dances of the Sufis, which seemed the closest thing to what I had experienced. The practices of the dervishes are based on the principle that rotational force can result in energy rising upward. The Sanskrit word “kundalini” means “coiled like a snake”. The snake is a common symbol of the kundalini, curled at the base of the spine, often related to sexual energy since it begins in the lowest chakras or energy centers and moves upward.
As the kundalini moves upward, the energy flows through seven major energy centers called chakras. Some systems include eight chakras (adding the secret chamber of the heart) and other systems include twelve chakras (adding five secret ray chakras in the hands and feet). Other systems break this down further into 144 chakras or more.
Many mystics and yogis have written and taught about the rising of the kundalini. Bringing the energy to the crown of the head is the physical counterpart to achieving enlightenment. There are many approaches to awakening and raising the kundalini.
My favorite practice is chanting. There are seed syllables associated with each chakra (lam, vam, ram, yam, ham, om and ah). In addition, there are mantras dedicated to deities connected each chakra. For example, Nataraja is a form of Shiva as the cosmic dancer and is associated with the crown chakra.
Scientific experiments have shown that the frequencies of certain sounds will produce patterns in sand or water on metal plates. Those patterns are remarkably like the forms depicted in yantras. Yantras are traditional symbolic images that have been used in meditation for thousands of years. Here is the traditional yantra for the sound “om” and the corresponding pattern:
Not only does chanting and visualization focus the mind, but it also creates a physical vibration that helps to clear and accelerate the spinning of the chakras. Personally, I feel chants as a vibration that begins in my heart and grows to a full “body buzz”. It’s like being plugged into an electrical outlet!
Chanting creates a connection to a much greater source and energy–a connection to God. Sometimes that only happens for a moment or two in the course of an hour or more of chanting. Other times I feel the inner vibration so strongly and for such an extended period that I think that I must be shaking visibly, but actually I am not.
When chanting in a group (kirtan), there is an additional sense of unity and community that I haven’t experienced with other practices. The combined sense of being filled with incredible energy and the connection to others is a powerful, magical sensation.
Chanting can be understood as chakras and science, but that’s only one level. If you pour your heart and soul deeply into the practice, it becomes an experience that I can only describe as falling passionately in love with all of life.