RICK: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer. Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of conversations with spiritually awakening people. I’ve done over 600 of them now and if this is new to you and you’d like to check out previous ones, please go to batgap.com and look under the Past Interviews menu. This program is made possible through the support of appreciative listeners and viewers so if you appreciate it and would like to help support it, there’s a PayPal button on every page of the website. There’s also a donations page that explains a few alternatives to PayPal. My guest today is Tara Springett. Welcome, Tara.
TARA: Hello, Rick.
RICK: I’ll just read a little bio of Tara here and then we’ll get going. From teenage years onward, Tara has been deeply interested in personal growth and self-development and has dedicated her life to this quest. She holds an MA in Education and has postgraduate qualifications in Gestalt therapy, body awareness therapy, and transpersonal therapy. She is a fully qualified and licensed psychotherapist and counselor. She has worked as a drug counselor for adolescents and general psychotherapist since 1988. Tara has been a dedicated Buddhist practitioner since 1986. In 1997, she received encouragement from her Buddhist teacher Rigdzin Shikpo to teach meditation to others. In 2002, her Buddhist teacher His Eminence Garchen Rinpoche also encouraged her to teach. Tara has since taught ongoing meditation groups and combines Buddhist wisdom and her experience in counseling when assisting her clients with their personal growth and self-development. Since 2011, she has specialized in helping people suffering from Kundalini syndrome which is I think is going to be the main focus of our conversation today. She is the author of several self-help books. She has been featured in numerous publications and has appeared on various radio and TV shows in Europe and the US and she is a regular contributor to beliefnet.com. Tara was born in 1960, lives in the beautiful countryside of Devon in England where she also works in her private counseling practice over Skype together with her husband Nigel. In her free time, she loves to walk in nature, visit old-fashioned English tea rooms and lavish many hours of work on her flower garden, some of the results of which you can see over her right shoulder there. As I mentioned in your bio, Tara, we are going to mainly be talking about Kundalini and I think this is a good topic. I’ve had several interviews that focus on that – I’ve done two with Bonnie Greenwell and one with Joan Shivarpita Harrigan and a few others including Lawrence Edwards.
We often get contacted by people who are having Kundalini problems. I have actually a few referral emails saved here, to which I say, “Try these people.” I don’t always know what happens to them when they try these people. Although, there was one person we heard from recently who I referred to somebody and that therapist was holding Zoom meetings with people who were having Kundalini problems. She participated in one of those and she said everybody was doing kriyas and it got her going and it made it even worse! So anyway, it seems to be a thing.
I started having Kundalini experiences myself in 1970 after a one-month meditation course and I had been meditating a couple years. It wasn’t really a problem – I knew what it was and I didn’t fight it. I didn’t encourage it. That energy is still lively – it’s a lifelong process. So, it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It does have a scary reputation, I know, in some circles. It can be scary especially if you don’t know what it is. I think you would agree and you can certainly comment on this now. There are ways of handling it and it’s actually a blessing if you understand it properly and handle it properly.
TARA: Yes, so many of clients who come to us have a lot of negative emotions, virtually all of them. They have very strong anxiety and other strong emotions like depression and anger. Some have pains in the body, some have scary energy movements in the body. Some also struggle with paranormal experiences – seeing ghosts, demons and the like. I have developed a practice called Higher Consciousness Healing which we use to help these people. We always start with the emotions first – we start with the anxiety first. We have a very effective anti-anxiety technique. I teach it to people and it works practically in the first five minutes that they start using it and the anxiety comes down. If you carry on using these techniques, the anxiety also comes down in a general way. If you’re not anxious anymore, the symptoms are less scary and can be managed much more effectively.
We give people an explanation of what the Kundalini is. First of all, we say we don’t really like the word “Kundalini” because it conjures up the idea of a snake crawling around in you – something from outside coming into you and you’re the victim of that. That’s really not a very good approach. The best way of thinking about Kundalini awakening is as a consciousness expansion. Consider Michael, he had a Kundalini awakening and now there is more of Michael, more of his unconscious material. So that’s already a great deal less scary.
People are very scared about all the energy movements in the body and they say, “Oh, the Kundalini was very strong again last night. I felt it in the body, it was moving around.” We explain that these movements are really your own suppressed emotions which become conscious. Because they’re not completely conscious, just halfway, you experience them as energy. This is nothing from outside, nothing new, nothing added to your system. It’s just you and more of you than you knew you had. It’s unconscious material emerging from the unconscious mind. In this way, we translate all the weird and wonderful symptoms into concepts that people are familiar with. They say “Okay, there’s more of myself, fine, I can deal with that but with the snake and a Kundalini energy crawling around in me, now that’s scary, I can’t deal with that.” We explain that they don’t have to deal with that because that’s really the wrong way of thinking about it.
RICK: Yes, and if you Google the word “Kundalini”, you will find scary things. You might read Gopi Krishna’s account of what he went through and you don’t want to go through that but, as I mentioned, in my own experience, it wasn’t scary. I knew what it was, I’d heard about it and I was feeling so good anyway from the course. I was having these movements and face grimaces and things like that. In fact, I was driving an ice cream truck at the time and sometimes if I came to a red light and just sat still for a moment, my head would start to twitch. But I knew what it was so it eventually subsided and it wasn’t so involuntary. Obviously, you used the word “scary” several times and “anxiety” and if started happening to a person – I’ve heard of cases when it did – and they hadn’t a clue what it was – they could think, “Oh, my God, what’s wrong? I have a neurological problem.” It could be very scary.
TARA: Yes, many people think they’re ill, they go to many doctors and neurologists to get checked out and it’s frightening.
RICK: Yes, and if the doctor saw them twitching and doing kriyas and things like that, she would probably be freaked out unless she had seen such a thing. She’d think “There’s something really wrong with this person.”
TARA: Yes, exactly. With the kriyas, we use the idea that before the Kundalini awakening, we are like an ice block. Through the Kundalini awakening, the ice starts to melt and then the water starts to trickle and this becomes stronger until there’s little rivers running through you. Then you can have experiences in which a big chunk of ice breaks off where your unconscious mind makes strong movements inside. This is because our unconscious mind is in our physical body. In this shoulder, there might be an old memory, a traumatic memory in this other shoulder. There might be some anti-social, primitive drives that you have suppressed for good reason. When they come up, we don’t really want them to come up – this unconscious material is repressed for good reason. When they do come up, we still have some repression going so that they come up as a jerk or as an energy movement and manifests in the body such that your head moves or jerks and so on. Basically, we explain to people that the kriyas happen at the beginning phases of the Kundalini process. They subside with time because the ice will melt more slowly and they can pace themselves more in the process. Then the kriyas either stop or they become much less.
It is also important that they learn to control the kriyas because if the kriyas start controlling them, they can have a problem. Some people get into real difficulties – maybe they can’t go outside anymore because they are just jerking, arms flailing and so forth. There was a client I had who was training to be a Zen priest and while she was sitting in the Zendo – where everybody is so strict – she was jerking all the time. The others were not happy about it and she was thrown out – she could not complete that training. So, it is better to learn to control these things and then you can sometimes let it all out if you give it a time where you say, “Okay, now I can jerk and let it all go.” It’s not particularly good or bad for you. It’s neither – it’s just part of the process. Then you can slowly start to manage that process better and get control over it.
RICK: Yes, my teacher at the time used to say “It’s a natural thing. Don’t try to suppress it but, at the same time, don’t encourage it, don’t make a big fuss about it.” I’ve seen many situations where it’s kind of a badge of honor – like “Who can do the coolest kriyas?” There are some groups with some teachers that are just like a lunatic asylum; everybody’s just going through all these kriyas and it’s encouraged. It’s as if they say, “Oh boy, you’re really getting some results now.” Personally, I’m quite skeptical about that.
TARA: Yes, this is when the ego hijacks the process and says “Look at me, I can do the best kriyas and I have this involuntary yoga position. Look, I can bend like this. Normally, I can never bend like this.” That’s clearly when the ego latches on to this phenomenon and says, “You know, I’m so special and so great.” That is not a good idea. In Tibetan Buddhism, we call the Kundalini path the secret path. It’s, called secret because it’s meant to be kept secret. So, this is meant to be an inner process while, outwardly, we appear to be completely ordinary people. So that’s the ideal. If we show off with these kinds of things then the danger of making an ego trip out of this is quite high.
RICK: Yes. To a certain extent, I’m going to use the outline of your book as a guide to our conversation but I want to follow up on a couple things you just said. You were talking about how there could be something stored in one shoulder and something stored in another shoulder. Do various past traumas actually get stored in very specific parts of the body like that?
TARA: Yes, they do. We need to understand that the physical body is penetrated by an energy body. So, this is the body in which we feel our thoughts and emotions along with the thoughts and emotions that we don’t feel because they are in our unconscious mind. They’re literally stored in the body. They are stored according to certain topics and the topics are the chakras. Let’s say up in the brain are certain thoughts and beliefs – let’s say very depressive, morbid thoughts – we repress in the brain. Maybe we have some megalomania: thinking we are the greatest and we know that isn’t good so we repress that. The throat chakra is all about reciprocity, giving and taking and confident of speaking, finding our voice and saying our thing. In the heart, there are the topics of love and relationships. Solar plexus is about bonding. Navel is about possessions, material possessions and power. The root chakra is about survival as well as pleasure. So, if someone has an issue around pleasure and lots of guilt, for example, maybe through having an affair or something, they may have bad guilt feelings about that but repress them. I’ve seen in a number of my clients that they had really bad pain in the root chakra, in their genitals. Where the pain and the symptoms manifest has something to do with the topic of the chakra that is nearest to it.
RICK: That makes sense – the traumas or issues of certain types would be stored in chakras that are associated with those kinds of things. You mentioned the subtle physiology a minute ago and there’s a whole science of esoteric physiology in the East about the nadis – I think they’re supposed to be 72,000 nadis – and then there is the sushumna running up the spine and the ida and pingala going around that. There’s a big focus on the flow of the breath through the nostrils that’s associated with which side the energy is flowing and so on. Do you concur with that model or do you differ from it?
TARA: Well, when we look at the images of there being an actual channel up the spine and actual channels alongside it and so on, it looks as if we have an inner plumbing system. In this perspective, there might be a block somewhere or a diamond cap somewhere else that you have to pierce. In this way, it all becomes very materialistic and that’s not how I see this working. I see the Kundalini process and the unconscious mind coming forward more as a psychological process. Those plumbing images, they’re not helpful because we start thinking, “Oh, here’s a blockage, I need to push through it.” No, this is not how it works. A better image is to imagine that we are like a river and there’s lots of currents in it. Yes, there are certain currents that go a little bit more one way and currents going a little bit more in another direction but not in an orderly fashion. Even better is to think about the whole system as a kind of psycho-spiritual process and the issues that we’re having are not blockages but more like beliefs, emotions, old wounds, some wrong megalomania and phenomena like that. That’s the material that we’re working with. If you work with that, all the blockages disappear. So, you make it a more mental, spiritual process, really.
RICK: My understanding of that whole thing with the nadis and the ida and the pingala and sushumna is that it’s not something that a surgeon would find if they cut you open, even if they used some kind of microscope to look for those things. It’s all subtle body phenomena, it just wouldn’t be found in the physical body. I don’t know too much about Chinese medicine and acupuncture – where there are these meridians that can be influenced by putting needles in – I’m presuming that a microscopic surgery wouldn’t find those meridians, either. We do have a subtle body, would you agree? It might have its own structure which does not correspond exactly to the gross body.
TARA: Yes, in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), I can see this is working with my clients. For example, if my clients have anger issues, in TCM they call that liver heat rising which means that energy comes up through the gallbladder meridian, it comes up on one side and goes up further into the head and they get the headache and so on. That’s exactly what my clients tell me. They say, “Oh, I have this rib pain and then it goes here into my shoulder and I’ve got this headache.” That correlates very much with what the TCM practitioners say but we don’t need to conclude “Yes, it’s exactly this line.” It’s more like, yes, I’ve this pain here and here and that roughly corresponds to the gallbladder meridian. Again, what I discourage is to look at the whole system in this materialistic way.
RICK: Yeah, it’s a subtle phenomenon.
TARA: Yes, it’s more a mental phenomenon – it’s emotions and thoughts – that’s what we’re dealing with. When you think differently, you’re less angry and all the pain, all the pressure, all of that disappears.
RICK: Yes. Well, the emotions and the mind are subtle. You don’t cut a person open and find those either but they’re very real. So, there’s a subtler reality to our existence than the flesh and blood level. I think that’s what we’re talking about here, mostly. Even the whole idea of Kundalini as energy, a materialist might say, “What do you mean energy? You mean some kind of metabolic process or glucose levels?” They’re trying to define it in terms of gross material and they won’t understand it that way.
TARA: No, it is about our thoughts, it is about our emotions. The image that I use is that of an hourglass, I think you have a slide of that, if you could show that.
RICK: I do, let me just show that. There we go, it’s on the screen.
TARA: So, at the top of the hourglass, we have our higher consciousness and there we have experiences of a spiritual nature like bliss and union with the Divine. On the bottom, we have the unconscious mind and that’s more where we have more difficult experiences or impulses that we have stored there. If you go down the street and you find a typical materialistic person who is very atheistic, there will say, “An unconscious mind, a shadow side, I don’t have one. And God, God is dead.” They identify with that little area there in the middle. So, up and down is completely frozen. Now, in the Kundalini process, this ice is melting and it always melts in the upper and lower areas at the same time. So, that’s why, let’s say, when you do intensive psychotherapy, shadow work, and so forth – perhaps you go to a workshop about that. Then maybe you go for a walk in the afternoon and suddenly you get your first bliss experience. Because the ice melted in the upper area, you find nature so beautiful like you’ve never seen it before. Or the other way around: you go to a meditation retreat and you try so hard and you say your mantra and you try to guide all your thoughts and feelings into spiritual pathways. The more you try, the more anger comes up, the more you have very unspiritual impulses because the lower area is melting. Your shadow side is now coming up and then what happens is that people oscillate between bliss experiences and negative meltdowns and they think “Am I going mad? Is this the right path that I’m going here? Is this all for the good?” The answer is “Yes, it is for the good.”
I’ve made a graphic about the four levels of spiritual practice and maybe we could have that slide if you have it ready.
RICK: Okay, that’s on the screen.
TARA: It is quite good to understand how all this fits together and in Tibetan Buddhism we have the four levels of spiritual practice. The first level we call Hinayana and that is what we in the West really call mindfulness. That’s where people learn to have witness consciousness, observing their thoughts and calming their minds. It also goes together with ethical living. So, that’s a very important foundation of the work.
RICK: I just want to jump in there and put a pin on that point about ethical living, that’s glossed over a lot sometimes in spiritual circles sometimes. If you talk to anybody who really appreciates the traditional values of spirituality, they’ll say “That’s a foundation, you can’t really have higher consciousness without it, if you try to, you’re going to have problems.”
TARA: Absolutely and I agree with that. People sometimes say, “Oh, I just do this meditation and then I’ll be enlightened,” yet they go on having affairs or doing not very nice things to other people – it’s not going to work. So that’s the first foundation that is very important.
The second level up is called Mahayana and that’s the focus on loving-kindness, on meditations on forgiveness and compassion and also devotional practices to a deity of some sort: Jesus or Buddha or Divine Mother, it doesn’t really matter how you call it. You have a personal, devotional practice to some personalized sense of your higher power. People sometimes think “I don’t need that, I just do my practice,” but that would be the Hinayana level. If you want to go further, according to Tibetan Buddhism, relating to a deity needs to happen.
The third level up is Vajrayana. Here we work with the chakras which we already talked about a little bit – clearing out the chakras, accessing your unconscious mind and clearing out negative, unconscious impulses. In order for that to happen, you have to have awakened Kundalini because without the Kundalini, you can’t even feel that material, it’s too unconscious. You can’t even feel those chakras, you might feel a little bit of love when you watch a sad movie or you feel sexual feelings. Apart from that, this all pretty numb, it’s still frozen. So, we need awaken Kundalini for that. When we do this work then people will start to have prolonged states of bliss. So, they go into bliss but as I just explained, that can then oscillate very much between meltdowns and tantrum coming up before going back into bliss stages. It is on that level that I help my clients, this is how they come to me. They say, “You know, my mind is all over the place, I don’t know what’s going on with me, I’m having all these experiences.”
The next level up we call Dzogchen or Atiyoga and I think Advaita is also in that realm – I’m not a specialist for that – where this is more a combination of the first three stages, the whole thing becomes quite effortless. So, you are mindful, you’re ethical, you’re full of love, you have devotion, you clear out your unconscious mind and you do it in the moment of its arising. You get a negative thought or something comes up in your mind and before it even has fully formed you can already let it go, transforming it into bliss. If that all becomes very, very effortless then you have more and more ongoing bliss experiences and live in that state, nirvana. Some people would then say, “Oh, great, I’m enlightened now,” but that’s not true. This is because there’s still an ego there that looks on and says, “Look at me, I’ve got all these wonderful bliss experiences. Surely, I must be enlightened now. You must all worship me.” That’s where a lot of teachers lose the plot. That’s where so many people who really started out very well, start doing strange things and behaving badly because they haven’t really understood that this isn’t quite the end. So, what happens in that state, spontaneously (you can’t make it happen) is that at some point you experience yourself as the deity of your worship. That’s why you need a deity in your spiritual practice. So, if you are a devotee of Christ, let’s say, you experience yourself as Christ-like, or if you are a Buddhist practitioner and your deity’s White Tara, you experience yourself as White Tara with all her ornaments and hair style. So, it’s an inner experience and then you think, “Well, surely, I must be enlightened now that I’m a deity?” You’re getting there as long as your ego doesn’t hijack the process and say, “I’m the deity and you must worship me now.” It takes a lot of time until that really consolidates and what people find is that when they go into the bliss experiences, they often do it through a certain chakra inadvertently. They don’t know that but, let’s say, they experience bliss in the head chakra which is very common or in the heart chakra. Then they start overusing these chakras and the other chakras are not cleared out properly from their unconscious material. So, again, very strange things can happen that they do bad things yet they can also access these very high states. So, it is important to carry on working with all the chakras, really clearing them all out – particularly also the lower chakras where we have so-called “lower drives.” We need to liberate ourselves from all this unconscious material (our animal type impulses that are in there). Then the experience of being the deity will deepen. After sometime, it will become very automatic and people will start recognizing us as the deity. They will approach us like that, they’ll start worshipping us. Now that’s more what we call enlightenment in Tibetan Buddhism.
RICK: Yes. So, I have a few questions. Firstly, this about the different levels of practice which I’ll show on the screen again here. You mentioned that as we move up through them, we don’t lose the things from the lower levels, we just incorporate more that are in the higher levels. It reminds me of the analogy of a building; as you go to higher floors, you don’t lose the view from lower floors, you just gain a broader view that includes the earlier views. It sounded like these are sequential the way you explained them. You don’t go from one to four or from one to three to two to four or anything. They roughly move in a sequential order. Is that right?
TARA: Yes, that’s right. There are different people and some people are quite talented and they can jump very quickly to the chakra work and ethical living comes very easily to them. They have never done anything bad to anybody while for other people, they have to really work hard on their aggressive impulses. It takes them a lot of time to harness these impulses. We have the image of a house, too, that symbolizes this teaching. So, Hinayana, ethical living and mindfulness is the foundation of the house. Without the foundation, nothing works. Mahayana, loving-kindness and devotional practice are like the walls of the house. This creates a safer situation, quite good, but you still get wet. Then the Vajrayana teaching and Dzogchen teaching are like the roof of the house. So, there’s two approaches – either you start from the bottom and do it properly, sequentially. First Hinayana then Mahayana and then Vajrayana. But we can also start from the top – we start directly with the Dzogchen teaching and then fill in all the gaps that are still missing. That’s possible, too. But you’re right; in the end, we only have a proper house if we get all levels right and the fourth level is really just a combination of the first three.
RICK: Yes, you may be familiar with Ken Wilber’s “lines of development” idea. Have you heard about that where he just says there are various lines of development that we all have? Ideally, we want to develop them in sync with one another. They can get quite out of sync such that you can be quite far developed along a certain line and yet really stunted in other lines. This situation can cause problems. I find that explanation helpful, though, to come to terms with the phenomenon of teachers who really do seem to have a lot of spiritual attainment and yet are found to be really lacking in certain areas such as ethics.
TARA: Yes, I think this is a very good explanation. So, I’m using more the model of the chakras that some people maybe have their heart chakra very developed and the head chakra but they still have nasty material in the lower chakras.
RICK: Which they might not even know is there and yet, at a certain point, all hell breaks loose.
TARA: Yes, they might know they have it but they think, “Oh, nobody sees it and it’s not too bad.” They give some themselves some rationalizations about why it isn’t so bad. “Yes, I lost their temper but who wouldn’t in that situation and, other than that, I’m a great spiritual teacher,” you know such rationalizations. So, that’s why it is very important to get the bliss experience into all the chakras and to liberate all the negativity from all the chakras. It’s not so easy because the chakras are very big and wide. They look small on our body but there’s a lot of material in them – memories from this life, memories from past lives, our animal type consciousness and so on. We still have a reptile brain, we all have animal type impulses like territorial thinking, “This is my place and you’re not to go over this boundary and, if you do, I will kill you or shoot you or something.” It’s very strong. It’s not so easy to get rid of these kinds of things.
RICK: Yes. Well, that leads into my next question. You mentioned clearing out all the chakras and just now you said something about infusing all the chakras with bliss. So, people might be wondering, “Well, how do you clear out all the chakras and is it by infusing them with bliss? And how do you do that?”
TARA: Well, we have to go through the four steps, we have to start with calming the mind, being able to observe ourselves, have witness consciousness. Hinayana, ethical living, being impeccable in our moral behavior which isn’t so easy when you think about all those little conflicts that we may have with our neighbors, with the shop assistant and everyone else. We have to be very, very conscious about the moral dimension of life and, you’re right, a lot of spiritual teachers want to do away with that moral dimension. Who talks about morality these days? Not many teachers.
RICK: Yes, the world is an illusion – you can be a totally enlightened scoundrel. I’ve heard people saying things like this.
TARA: Yes, which is totally wrong. That’s exactly what I’m saying, where you might have some enlightened experience in in some chakra but because you still have the bad impulses in other chakras, you come up with the rationalization that karma doesn’t really exist. So, I can rape you and it doesn’t matter because you don’t have an ego, I don’t have an ego, nothing bad has been done. This way of thinking is completely wrong.
RICK: Believe it or not, people say these things.
TARA: I know this too, Rick. I also read these books. So, this is why it is important to understand the foundation has to be morality. Then you really have to be like a train on the track of loving-kindness with no swerving. You have to stay on that track. After you are on the track, you have to work with the chakras. The way you work with the chakras is basically, when you have awakened Kundalini, this isn’t so difficult because you can feel the chakras because they’re running amok in you. They’re throwing up material like strong emotions. For example, you have a massive anxiety in the chest or a huge amount of anger in the lower chakras or very bad thoughts and emotions and paranormal experiences which maybe relate to the head chakra. So, you learn to calm that down and the way you do that is with the with the Higher Consciousness Healing where you follow several steps.
RICK: We will go through that, right, we’ll talk about Higher Consciousness Healing in some detail.
TARA: We can do that later. Then, if you learn to calm the chakras down, at some point they will naturally, automatically turn into bliss because that’s their nature. Our true nature is to be blissful. It’s just all that negative material – conscious and unconscious – that covers it up. You get rid of the negative material, which happens pretty much automatically in the Kundalini process. This is why the Kundalini process is a wonderful process. People moan about it and they say, “Oh, Kundalini ruined my life.” Well, no, your unconscious material is ruining your life. You should be glad about this opportunity that you’re “forced” to deal with it now because if you weren’t forced to deal with it, the unconscious material would drive your life. It would drive it in the wrong direction. So, I sometimes have young clients who were on drugs and they say, “I can’t take drugs anymore, can’t go partying and the Kundalini ruined all the fun in life.” And I say, “Well, it also saved your life because if you had carried on taking these drugs, you might be dead by now. So, you should be very glad that this happened to you.”
RICK: Absolutely, I would be dead by now. As soon as I learned to meditate, I dropped all my friends who were taking drugs. If I hadn’t done that, I’m quite sure I wouldn’t be alive anymore. Some of them aren’t. So, it’s a blessing. You’re always going to find new friends and then things will just get better. So, I think you can learn this, you gain greater and greater confidence that if you keep stepping in the direction of higher consciousness or evolution, things always work out for the best. So don’t bemoan leaving behind some darker things.
TARA: Yes, but this is part of my counseling. People do grieve about the things that they have to leave behind because it’s not so easy. Let’s say with your original family, there are certain things in every family that get swept under the rug. There are certain family secrets and you have to go along with that to get on with everybody. Now, in the Kundalini process, we are driven to authenticity, we want to be genuine and honest. The world doesn’t appreciate honesty. So, there’s quite often a conflict there. How can I carry on having good relationship with the people I love, my original family, and yet express myself honestly? So, that’s part of the counseling that I do.
RICK: Yes. There’s a Sanskrit saying, I forget the Sanskrit but the English is “Speak the truth which is sweet.” So, you don’t have to go home to your parents and sort of just start punching them on the nose with all kinds of confrontational points. You can you can be more diplomatic and nuanced than that I think, at least ideally.
TARA: Yes, it is not always possible in some respects. For example, I would say in my own respect, both my parents were alcoholics. I didn’t get any further with diplomacy with them. It ended up in an estrangement and that wasn’t very easy.
RICK: Yes, well, we all have different situations but my father was an alcoholic too. I eventually got him to learn to meditate and it helped him somewhat but the habit was so deep-seated and his PTSD from World War II was so heavy that he never quite broke out of that and ended up dying from an alcohol-related accident. But we do what we can, we love these people even if they’ve been sources of trauma and difficulty for us and we try to help.
TARA: Yes, if you are in a situation where your father could be helped or you had a good relationship with him then that’s wonderful.
RICK: There’s an old Bengali saying which is, “If no one comes on your call then go ahead alone.” So, you call, you say, “Okay, come on, and here’s this, this is great.” But if they refuse to listen or can’t listen then you’ve got to keep moving. Another point I want to pick up on that you mentioned is, you mentioned that Kundalini is expanded consciousness. In fact, that’s one of the main points in your book. As you were speaking earlier, I was thinking of this thought I often think which is that expanded consciousness, or Kundalini, is kind of like a solvent. That’s why I think when we have these expansions, they very often alternate with kind of purgations, you could say, where there’s some kind of solvent, there’s some kind of dissolving of accumulated stuff. Then once it’s dissolved and we’re rid of it then we might dip into another blissful, expanded state but then that stirs up more stuff. It’s so very often one goes through a cycle like this, you hear people report it, and eventually the cycle becomes less dramatic. You pretty much arrive at a continuum of bliss which you alluded to earlier. You do have to go through it, no two ways about it, as I understand it.
TARA: Absolutely. To say, “Oh, you can just snap out of this whole samsara, the ordinary world and be enlightened on the spot without going through that lengthy process of clearing out the unconscious mind.” That is not correct, at least not from the Tibetan Buddhist point of view and also from my own point of view of having lived in this process for so many years. I think I’ve counseled 1,500 clients now about their process. So, they all had to go through this same process. So, one could really say that when the Kundalini awakening happens then that’s a second time when our spiritual practice really begins. The first time it begins is when we make the decision to go to a meditation center or start meditating or praying or something. So, that’s the first beginning. Then that goes on for a while and then there’s a second beginning when the Kundalini rises. Often people feel, “I have to start from the beginning again.” People say to me, “Oh, I don’t want to deal with this kind of thing again. I’ve dealt with that 20 years ago in psychotherapy.” What happens is that maybe in the psychotherapy, they have scratched the surface or dealt with a certain amount of material but not on a deep level. The Kundalini awakening is bringing up the more deep-seated levels. Then they have to clear that out more strongly and have to do it again and also maybe work more strongly with loving-kindness and forgiveness than they did before.
RICK: Yes. Good point. In my own experience, I find that I totally concur with what you said – that this isn’t a weekend project or a one-week project or a year project even, it’s a lifelong thing. You do go through deeper and deeper stages of the same thing. You might be dealing with a certain issue for decades and you’re just shaving away at deeper levels of it as you go. I presume eventually, it all gets resolved. I think it’s good to have a realistic understanding as you’re explaining here because if people have unrealistic expectations, they’re going to get disillusioned or disappointed or lose motivation or some such thing. It’s really not discouraging to say this is something that you’ll be working at all your life. It’s actually, I find it inspirational. It’s like “Oh boy, life is this inspiration, this exciting project, this exciting adventure where I just get to discover deeper and deeper values as I go along. What a wonderful thing.”
TARA: Yes, it’s a path and people sometimes have the idea that, “First I work on my spiritual path and then I get enlightened or awakened, then I’m there and that’s a place and then I can stay there and everything will be good.” But if you really think about it, that’s quite boring. If you go on a hike and then you arrive at the mountain top and you have your picnic up there, you don’t want to stay there forever. You want either to go to another mountain top or you want to go down again and later go on another hike. It’s the same thing on the spiritual path. In Tibetan Buddhism, we do not believe that even Buddhas are complete in themselves – their process goes on and on and on, forever and ever, on a finer level than ours. We are just rummaging around on the gross level of imperfections and, let’s say, a completely enlightened being – White Tara or Buddha Shakyamuni – they still have to clear out negativity and they carry on doing that. Doing that can be enjoyable. I, myself, have been in this process now for 43 years and I enjoy it. I want to carry on going to deeper and deeper levels. At some point, it also becomes maybe a little less about yourself, certain things have been clarified. Then the question that really becomes stronger is, “How can I help others?” Now that question can never be completely resolved because there are billions of different people and they all need an individual approach. What works for one, doesn’t work another. So, to refine your methods which I do in my counseling, to really help everybody, I find that highly enjoyable.
RICK: Yes, it’s like education in a way. It would sound absurd to say, “Now I’m educated,” as if you couldn’t learn anything more. If you’re really an inquisitive person, you’ll be fascinated with learning more all of your life. At a certain stage, there’s a good chance you’ll become a teacher of some sort because you love knowledge and you want to impart it to others, you want to share with others what has been so beneficial to you. So, I think it’s really the same with this whole spiritual thing.
TARA: Yes, that’s really bringing it to a point. I agree with that.
RICK: Yes. One other thing you said a little earlier which I wanted to question you more on was about becoming a deity or realizing you’re a deity and people treat you as a deity. I guess that’s a Tibetan Buddhist thing. I’m not so familiar with that as a stage of potential development. We revere great spiritual beings like Jesus and Ramana Maharshi and others. They are worthy of reverence but I don’t know if any of them would call themselves deities. Christ said, “I and my Father are one.” He didn’t say, “I am God,” but he just said, “I am one with God,” which I think is something that we can all aspire to. I was just a little tripped up when you were talking about becoming a deity. That was a little unfamiliar to me and maybe you could clarify that.
TARA: Yes, I think this is just another way of saying you’re referring to the state of enlightenment because it is something that is happening in your body. It doesn’t just happen in your brain or in your mind, it is something that completely and utterly transforms you and the way you experienced yourself in your old identity. Like with your birth name which has always been a kind of luggage and baggage of old limitations, old ideas about who you are or who you are not. All of that will be completely and utterly wiped away and will be replaced with something that you can only experience as some somebody completely different. It has nothing to do with “me”, what I think “me” is and some people have expressed that experience like, “God is looking out through my own eyes.”
RICK: Yes, okay.
TARA: Or I feel as a completely different being and the old person that I was – with all those ideas of what I can and can’t do and how I am – is all gone. In Tibetan Buddhism, we call that deity practice. So, deity practice in which we communicate with the deity, we see light going between our different chakras and, in the end, the Buddha or deity merges into us and becomes us. This is a kind of a visualization technique but, at some point, it becomes reality, something that is irrefutable, you can just feel that it is like that.
TARA: At the beginning, that state might last for a second then it becomes like a minute and then it becomes longer, prolonged states.
RICK: Yes, so that makes more sense. So, for instance, Muktananda used to say, “God dwells within you as you.” That was actually written on the sign outside of his ashram. Great many sages from all different traditions have spoken about, kind of merging with that, with that inner divinity. Realizing that one’s essential nature is divine and that divinity permeates the whole cosmos. So, it’s not like you become a god. Rather, that you realize that your essential nature is that to which the word god refers, would that be an adequate way of saying it?
TARA: Well, yes, you could see it like that. In Tibetan Buddhism, we really have the sense of being the deity with a completely different body. That’s something that you feel.
TARA: It is also known in the Eastern Christian Church, that they call it Theosis or deification where you and God become one. In the Western Christian Church, it was completely lost but in the Eastern Orthodox Church – like in Greece and Russia – they still have it. So, it’s known in different traditions with different names or labels and in Tibetan Buddhism, they call it deity practice or becoming the deity or you can also call it enlightenment. I think this is just words; it is the same experience.
RICK: That’s clearer. Buddhism, in general, sometimes has a reputation of being sort of agnostic and not dealing with the issue of God but it sounds like Tibetan Buddhism talks about it a lot more.
TARA: Yes, so, in the Hinayana, the first level, where we do mindfulness and ethical living, you can do that without any god or beliefs and there’s plenty of Buddhists or people who follow Buddhist teachings who sign up to that type of Buddhism because they’re not yet ready to go a step further and have that personal relationship to a personalized, higher power. Tibetan Buddhism is very strong on deities. So, it belongs to the tantric path, tantric Buddhism, which is quite different from Hinayana. So, Vajrayana and Hinayana – when you look into it – they are often completely contradictory. So, in Hinayana, in mindfulness, it is all about surrender, letting go, acceptance. Now when you come to Vajrayana, it’s all about control, mastery, taking control of things and asserting yourself because if you have unconscious mind material coming up, like a massive, strong river going down the mountainside, you shouldn’t just surrender to that. It just makes it worse – you need to build good banks, strong banks. You have to have very good methods. In Hinayana, you say whatever comes into your mind, you accept everything, you turn towards things, you don’t turn away. In Vajrayana, if you see some demons, you do turn away, you don’t go there and surrender to them. You need to know what you’re doing because it becomes very strong or can become a very strong part of your experience and so you need very different approaches and techniques in this. So, that also creates often a lot of confusion because people say “Oh, no, you can’t just do something with control and meditation, that’s all wrong, you need to only surrender.” Not so, not when you’re when you come to that part where your unconscious mind really opens up. Or another area where people are also get confused is when they practice Dzogchen and they are dwelling in the prolonged stage of bliss. Many people want to do that. They want to think they are Dzogchen practitioners because it’s the highest teaching but what they’re really doing is just Hinayana. They are just observing the mind because they don’t have the necessary Kundalini to even create that bliss. You cannot have prolonged states of bliss without open Kundalini. It’s not possible because the very juice that makes the bliss, the energy isn’t at your disposal because it’s still frozen in your unconscious mind. It’s not possible.
RICK: Yes, people do the same thing with the Vedic tradition, too. They just want to jump to Vedanta and Vedanta means the end of the Veda but they haven’t even gone through any of the other stages. So, they’ll start saying things like, “Well, you’re already enlightened, you don’t need to do any practices, the world is an illusion.” They say things like this which may be true from the ultimate perspective but it can be very out of sync with where people are actually are, the stage that people are actually at and what they actually need to do to genuinely proceed to higher stages.
TARA: Yes, this, I like to compare it with maybe someone who is an addict, who is always an alcoholic or a girl who has anorexia and is starving herself to death. You can say to these people, “Oh, that’s easy. We just stop drinking,” or to that girl, you say “You just start eating now.” Theoretically, that’s correct. Only the forces that keep you in the cycles of addiction, or very neurotic, destructive behavior, they are very, very strong and they shouldn’t be underestimated. You need skillful means to help yourself at that stage where you are. Somebody who is in the throes of addiction, they need other teachings than someone who finds that all very easy with ethical living and sits there in prolonged states of bliss, they need different teachings.
RICK: Yes, there’s that saying it takes a thorn to remove a thorn. If a person is a heroin addict, for instance, they might need methadone for a while or something which is like a thorn but not as bad as the heroin thorn.
TARA: Yes, and they also need to harness the power to withstand these addictive urges and to say “No” and for that part of your mind, that willpower is like a muscle and that muscle needs to be developed by using it. Just again and again saying, “No, I won’t be doing this,” gradually, you will start to be strong enough to withstand these urges and, instead, do a relaxation exercise or meditation or have a hot bath or some other positive process. So, in theory, this is all possible; in practice, it is not.
RICK: Yes, let me jump to a question that a friend of mine asked, his name is Peter, and I’ve known him for decades – wonderful guy who lives in my town. He says, “Can mental health issues and Kundalini symptoms coexist? If this is true, would it not make the diagnosis and treatment more complex?” I think he meant he means the treatment would need to be much more long-lasting if there is a mixture of mental health and Kundalini issues.
TARA: Yes, absolutely correct. So, it is very helpful for myself, because I’m a psychotherapist, that I’m capable of disentangling those two diagnoses. So, basically, with Kundalini, we always have a very strong, spiritual urge there. That is really the differential diagnosis to other problems that people can have – borderline personality disorder or schizophrenia or psychosis or other psychiatric conditions – because these experiences or drug psychosis can look very similar to Kundalini syndrome. So, people can have energy movements in the body, they can have emotional turmoil, they can be hugely sensitive, they can’t cope with sense stimuli and they can have paranormal experiences. The differential is that there is a very strong spiritual quest there and a general feeling of wanting to make one’s life healthier and more spiritual. Nevertheless, those two things can coincide. I had a number of clients who had a Kundalini awakening according to our diagnosis and maybe bipolar or other mental problems too. So, that can be the case and then you have to work on both levels simultaneously which I can do because I am a psychotherapist. So, we need to discuss how a manic state is different from a bliss state. Normally, we create long lists of symptoms and there is a big difference. Mania has nothing to do with bliss. Bliss is wonderful. A manic state is driven, aggressive, irritable, it doesn’t feel pleasant. It just has this name of mania and that people say, “Oh yes, they are euphoric.” They’re not, they just appear like that. So, when you look into details, you can find that out. Then you can help people to look for first warning signs that a manic episode is coming. They have to adhere to certain very strict rules: always sleeping, always eating which they usually don’t do. They start not wanting to sleep or eat because in some way, they produce this manic episode through this kind of behavior.
RICK: Yes, I’ve been taking classes on the Bhagavad Gita with Swami Sarvapriyananda and just last night, we covered the verses in the Gita about the importance of a regular routine on the spiritual path: not eating too much, not eating too little, not sleeping too much, not sleeping too little, not being too inactive, not being too active. Just, being balanced and kind of slow and steady wins the race. Just regular routine over, as a lifestyle, really.
TARA: Yes, it’s important for everybody but if you have a bipolar diagnosis, it’s a lifesaver.
RICK: Yes, yes.
TARA: This is because every night that you don’t sleep can trigger another manic episode. Yes, so it is good if you have Kundalini syndrome to go to a therapist who knows both Kundalini syndrome and what to do about mental disorders. That’s basically what I do. So, I mix those two things up in my work, so everybody who comes to me receives psychotherapy on their normal mental, psychological processes which are enhanced and stronger through the Kundalini syndrome and they get the information about Kundalini and how to harness all this. In this way, Kundalini is not such a big problem and actually a blessing. So, that comes together and then we usually make rapid progress.
RICK: I want to dwell on this point a little bit longer. I’ve been on a lot of long meditation courses – sometimes six months at a time especially in the 1970s. I’ve seen an instance where people were, this isn’t the TM movement, in Majorca and there was a whole group of people who were just having extreme Kundalini symptoms. In fact, Maharshi had them come and sit on stage on one side. It was kind of theatrical but there was also seemed to be a correlation between the awakening of Kundalini and actual tipping into insanity or mental instability. There were a certain percentage of people who had been living apparently normal lives but who just really lost it as a result of what appeared to be a Kundalini awakening. Could a Kundalini awakening actually cause some kind of mental instability or illness?
TARA: Only if you have a predisposition for that.
RICK: Which you may not know you have, right?
TARA: That’s right. So, in my experience, the only people who had psychosis or extreme states of confusion and very dangerous, reckless behavior were people who were on drugs. So, I’ve had a number of clients who had their Kundalini awakening together with the drugs psychosis and that’s quite difficult to handle. I think I counseled maybe 1000 people or many 100s before I wrote “Healing Kundalini Symptoms.” I wrote in the book that I’ve never seen anybody having a “Kundalini psychosis” – I believed that it was a misnomer that didn’t exist. Then I had one person where I felt, okay, in that situation, somebody tipped into some extreme manic behavior and there were no drugs in the picture. So, what can I say? Kundalini psychosis is extremely rare and to frighten people with that is not a good idea and I believe people only can become psychotic if they have a disposition for that.
RICK: I’ve heard from a few people who had done ayahuasca, and perhaps we could also mention other drugs, but who then may have had a Kundalini awakening. One woman I talked to not long ago, she had done ayahuasca and she’s been having serious problems ever since where she feels like energies are moving around in her body that she can’t quite control. It is as if there’s some kind of animal crawling around in her, doing its own thing. It makes her extremely uncomfortable. So, can ayahuasca or psilocybin and these other things initiate a Kundalini awakening? Or is that something else going on that we wouldn’t really want to label Kundalini?
TARA: So, when I started this work, I held the opinion that drugs cannot cause a Kundalini awakening and I was wrong. I’ve since had numerous clients who did take various drugs, mostly cannabis, but also ayahuasca and others and it did cause a Kundalini awakening. They had a much harder time than all the other clients. So, I believe they would have had their Kundalini awakening anyway, they were ripe and then they had the drugs trigger and that caused the difficult awakening. So, I would really discourage people from seeking Kundalini awakening through drugs because when they do, they often have a quite horrendous experience. Then there is all the guilt and they also might have a stint in psychiatry where they might have another trauma there because they get treated badly. Now, it is better to spare yourself all of that.
RICK: So, you said you wouldn’t encourage them to try to have a Kundalini awakening through drugs but, as someone who has actually been a drug counselor and also a Kundalini counselor, would you discourage people from taking psychedelics in general?
TARA: Absolutely, absolutely.
RICK: Yes. Okay.
TARA: Particularly because I was a drugs counselor, because I saw all those people who ended up in psychosis and who were in psychiatry and sat there like a vegetable and I didn’t see all the people who can take drugs and were having a good time. I only saw the car crashes.
RICK: You saw the problem cases. Yes.
TARA: That’s right and when you see a lot of those people, it’s just the last thing you want to have happen to you. I said to my son, “Please don’t do that. You just don’t know what kind of landmine you have in your brain. It could go off with the very first joint that you smoke, it doesn’t have to be hundreds or thousands. It’s very dangerous.”
RICK: I know of a case like that – there’s a kid who was in my town and I think he was 14 or 15 years old but he was kind of a computer genius. I’d sometimes pay him to solve my computer problems and he ended up smoking one joint one time and his life has never been the same since.
TARA: Absolutely. I’ve clients like that and then they’re labeled schizophrenic and they can’t work and they’re on disability and they feel their life is ruined, really. Obviously, I help them not to see it as being ruined. You can make something good out of every situation but if you have a choice, don’t take that risk. Also, with ayahuasca, they say that’s a medicine plant that is only good and can never do any harm. I cannot confirm that. I’ve a number of clients who have taken ayahuasca and had a horrible time. Maybe some of the shamans say that and maybe it’s true if it’s taken in the tribal situation in a kind of traditional setting. Maybe that’s true. I don’t know, I’m not there but I know that Western people who go there and have a workshop and a number of them have come to me with high anxiety, confusion and had bad paranormal experiences ever since.
RICK: Yes. Now I’m very well aware, and you may be too, that some good research has been done at Johns Hopkins and NYU and other places and there’s sort of a psychedelic renaissance going on in the world right now. There’s been some really good results in helping alcoholics and terminal cancer patients and people addicted to cigarettes and other things like that. So, I wouldn’t be absolutist about this but in those clinical settings, it’s done so carefully and people are screened so carefully beforehand and the whole thing is conducted in such a careful, scrutinized way. It’s just, we won’t dwell on this topic too long but it’s just such a powerful thing and just not to be played with in a cavalier way, you can get into trouble.
TARA: Yes. I’ve not had clients who had taken those types of drugs medicinally. No, it’s not true – I have had clients who’ve taken cannabis in a medicinal way and they didn’t have a problem with that but there’s no guarantee. If you take something in good faith with a good motivation and for medicinal reason, maybe you have less side effects. I cannot tell. It’s possible.
RICK: Shifting topics, I interviewed Joan Shivarpita Harrigan some years ago and she’s widely regarded as quite an authority on Kundalini and she had a clinic in Tennessee. I don’t think it’s active now but a number of my friends went there and had marvelous experiences, really good results. One thing she has written about and talked about is what she calls a deflected Kundalini rising where the Kundalini sort of rises to a certain extent and then goes off track and get stuck. She explains – and not only she, other people have talked about this – that this can endow you with eloquence and charisma and even siddhis and you might seem to be radiating light but you’re not all the way there. You can be very off the track and your behavior can begin to reflect that at a certain point and it causes all kinds of problems. So, do you share that sort of understanding about a deflected Kundalini rising? She offers methods for getting it undeflected. Is that a different way of thinking to yours?
TARA: It is a quite different way of thinking. I’ve read her book and there’s a lot of detail in there. So, what she describes as deflected risings, they are artistic people or people who are very much into intense experiences like sex or art or something like that. These are not the people who would pass my Kundalini test. So, for me, I wouldn’t even call that somebody with awakened Kundalini because, simply, the spiritual quest isn’t there – the intense desire to develop spiritually.
RICK: Oh, but I can think of teachers who were very much on the spiritual path and had profound awakening but then ended up becoming real troublemakers and we don’t need to go into all the gory details. Wouldn’t they possibly be a case of deflected or partial rising that has become a problem?
TARA: Well, that’s more what I refer to as them having spiritual experiences that clear out some chakras but usually not the lower ones.
TARA: Then, let’s say, their sexual impulses get really, really stimulated. Because there’s some megalomania going on they wrongly think of themselves as being enlightened and think that they can do anything and there’s some confusion going. I would call it part of the confusion that can happen in the Kundalini process. I look at the chakras and I say, “Okay, here this chakra is very open and you can speak beautifully about spirituality and then maybe you also have bliss experiences but it’s only in the head. Then there’s other chakras in you which are very unenlightened and where there’s still a lot of animal type impulses and you want to solve your problems with violence and you have affairs and all of that and that is not compatible with spirituality.”
RICK: Right. Well, could they have had a partial Kundalini awakening which is enlivened some of the upper chakras, like you say, but that has not cleared out the lower chakras?
TARA: Well, if they would pass my Kundalini test, I would say they had a full Kundalini awakening but it’s not like they’re enlightened. The Kundalini awakening is like a gateway. So, you go through it and then you get access to more information about yourself than you had before. But what you do as a result very much depends on how much you’ve been on that track of loving and that’s why, in the good old days, all the teaching around Kundalini awakening was kept secret. It was only given from master to disciple when they felt like the person was ready because they didn’t want the awakening to happen to people who were still quite egotistical and confused. But it can happen to people like that, just like it can happen to people who have mental disease. I also have autistic people who have a Kundalini awakening. It can coincide with any other condition. So, in an ideal world, this would only happen to people who were perfectly prepared but it is not like that. Young people, when they have a little bit of time, they go on the internet, perhaps on YouTube and say, “Oh, let’s do this breath work or this shadow work.” When we were young, for breath work or shadow work, we had to pay for expensive courses. We didn’t have that money for that. So, we would never be exposed to that to the extent that people now are. Also, in more and more workplaces, in companies that do away days and then they might a hire yoga teacher and do some advanced practices with the employees. I know stories like that and, boom, somebody has a Kundalini awakening afterwards and then they want to sue the company for causing the awakening. So, through the internet and through having all this information that we have now, more and more people are exposed to this. Also, as a culture, particularly we in the West, it becomes more and more mainstream. I have a client who is a school psychologist and he said to me he’s going to teach Higher Consciousness Healing to his pupils. I said, “That’s wonderful, that seems to be a quite progressive school.” He said, “No, no, we are a completely normal school”- he’s in Germany – “It is going to be everywhere, this is unstoppable, these kinds of things will come into every school and it is just on its way.” Now, just imagine how many Kundalini awakenings we will have then, I will have 100 therapists working for me to cater to them all!
RICK: Yes, it’s an interesting problem. On the one hand, like you say, traditionally, a lot of these teachings were kept secret for good reason because people should reach a certain level of mastery or qualification before learning them. On the other hand, these days, with the internet, everything’s being spread everywhere. It’s nice that all this great stuff is being spread everywhere but you can’t target it as precisely as a guru might have done in a traditional ashram in the olden days. So, it’s something that we’re kind of working out as a culture.
TARA: Maybe that’s the Age of Aquarius that we have this now and we have this mass awakening. I don’t see it as a something very mystical that comes down from the heavens through higher beings. I see this coming through the internet.
RICK: Yeah, exactly. The internet is an amazing thing. It’s changing the whole world in profound ways. It’s obviously carrying all kinds of garbage and pornography and hacking and all this misinformation that gets spread around but it’s also carrying great stuff. So, I just want to clarify one point; you mentioned that a person could have a full Kundalini awakening yet still have some of their lower chakras gunked up. When you said that, I was thinking, “Okay, maybe this is a matter of terminology because I would think of a full Kundalini awakening as only being possible when the whole thing was clear from bottom to top. Then you can have a full Kundalini awakening and that if there was still a lot of gunk in some lower chakras, even though you’re having experiences in the higher ones, it’s really not full yet, it’s still in process.
TARA: No, I see it the other way around. The Kundalini awakening is the starting point when you start clearing out the chakras because before the Kundalini awakening, you’re not even able to feel your chakras. Your body is numb,
RICK: But would you really use the word “full” for such an awakening? Wouldn’t full mean the process is finished?
TARA: I don’t see the Kundalini awakening as something that can finish. I think the Kundalini is a consciousness expansion. It’s just like in upgrade of your computer – it was maybe one gigabyte and now it’s 10 gigabytes. A lot more data comes in so you can do a lot more with your computer. So, when you then use all the information that comes in to further your enlightenment, you can go a lot further than without it because you can feel what’s going on in you. People without Kundalini, remember, I see them more as frozen. They can’t even feel all that stuff. They think, “Oh, I’m fine. I don’t have a shadow side.”
RICK: Okay, a couple of times you mentioned your Kundalini test, do you actually have a specific test?
TARA: Yes, it’s on my website, people just need to put their name in the subscription box and then they are sent the test.
RICK: What are some of the points on it?
TARA: Well, the first and most important point is that people have an intense quest and thirst for spirituality and the wish to make their life happier and healthier in all aspects. So, healthier diet, healthier sex life, healthier everything and strong spiritual quest. With that comes intensified emotions. So, where they had before a little anxiety, suddenly they get a panic attack or where they had found this view very nice, they get like an eye orgasm, something like that, which is another word for bliss. So, they have very, very intensified emotions and with that goes intensified sensitivity that can also go into clairvoyance. So, people can feel atmospheres, they can feel what other people are feeling, they can maybe read other people’s thoughts. They feel vibrations when they go in certain buildings but also their sense stimuli can be very strong – noises too loud, light too bright, that type of thing. They also experience energy movements in the body – like a washing machine going in the stomach, or energy moving around, maybe under the skin like ants or in the body like a snake. People without Kundalini don’t have that. The last one, which is a bit optional, by which I differentiate between a mild and a full Kundalini awakening, is when people have paranormal experiences. So, OBEs, out of body experiences, talking to the dead, seeing ghosts, seeing demons, having visions, clairvoyance, telepathy and all that kind of phenomena. I think about half my clients have paranormal experiences and this is because it’s also part of the consciousness expansion. When all four criteria without the paranormal experiences are present then I call it a mild Kundalini awakening. When they have a full blown, also with paranormal experiences then I call that a full Kundalini experience but, as I said, that in itself is not enlightenment. It’s just a gate through which you go and then you can actually pursue the path to enlightenment because you now have an upgraded computer that you can use.
RICK: Yes, it’s like a significant milestone but it’s not the end of the journey by any means and we know the journey doesn’t have an end. Okay, here’s a good question that came in from someone named Jeanne in France. “Years ago, Kundalini grabbed me while walking. The rising was powerful and exited the top of my head and showed me unity. I’ve been a meditator since then and the process is now in a refinement phase. At first, strong kriyas happened followed by mudras. The energy became more fluid and powerful in deeper states of meditation. Are they signs of Kundalini being in the right nadi?”
TARA: Again, I discourage people from thinking about nadis and channels because that brings this whole process that she described so beautifully – of having experiences of unity – it brings it back to some sort of materialistic idea of a plumbing system which we don’t really need. To judge whether you are on the right path, here are some relevant questions. Are you more loving? Do you have more effortless love and compassion and forgiveness? Do you find it easier to forgive and be loving? Well, these are big questions. When you can say “Yes” to them, you’re definitely on the right path. However, you shouldn’t just ask yourself, “Do I think that I’m so much loving now?” No, you should ask your wife, your children and ask them, “Have I become more big-headed?” If so, that’s the wrong path. “Do I get more experiences that help me to really understand life and have a position in life from which I really find more meaning and more sense that I can contribute to this world and make this world a better place? And if this is actually happening and I actually do it and people who I try to benefit are actually giving me the feedback, “Yes, it does help.” Well, that’s how you know that you’re on the right path.
RICK: Yes, they were good criteria. You have a chapter in your book entitled integration of the Kundalini process into our lives. Some of the things we’ve talked about today would make it difficult to work in an office or be a brain surgeon or something like that. So, ultimately, whatever we attain, we want it to be a living reality, we want to be able to do normal things, within reason. We might have to define what normal is, like you were saying earlier, we might need to drop half of our friends or not do the kinds of things we used to like to do. Let’s talk about the whole process of integrating Kundalini, which again, is expanded consciousness, into our everyday lives.
TARA: Well, a lot of people believe that spiritual development is something that you do on your meditation cushion and then you have amazing experiences and then you get up and you’re enlightened. It all will be wonderful but that’s not how it is. You get up and you’re changed and then the environment that you have created for yourself, your relationship, your jobs, your living accommodation, and so forth, might not fit you anymore. Then you have a new problem that you didn’t set out to have when you started your spiritual quest and it doesn’t go away. It demands that you change your entire life and that’s not so easy. You, so you think, “Okay, I can’t live in the city anymore. Now I have to live in the country and when I’m in the country, because it’s calmer and more conducive to meditation, what work will I do and what shall I do now? And anyway, I’m a computer scientist and that’s so boring now. It feels meaningless and now I want to be a healer, I want to really help people but I’m not qualified for that.” A lot of questions come up. Having said that, I don’t want to frighten people – this is not something that people have to do, this is something that will evolve on the journey and they always have a word to say in this and if they absolutely want to stay in the big city, they can, they’re always the boss in all of this. I’m just saying, typically, that’s what a lot of people describe but I also have had clients who said, “You said on your website that I will have to move to the country and I don’t want to move to the country.” No, you don’t have to move anywhere but the point is, as you change, you also have to change your environment, your relationship and the old marriage that you had, or the old friends that you had, they might just not work anymore. It might but, for some people, if they have been very wise in who they have chosen, maybe it does work.
RICK: Yes, Jesus said something about not pouring new wine into old wineskins. You might need to change things as the new consciousness awakens but, like you say, you don’t necessarily need to make radical, abrupt changes. Maybe sometimes, but very often, you have to intuitively feel your way into it over time. One thing leads to the next. Eventually, looking back, everything has changed but it didn’t change over a weekend or anything like that.
TARA: Yes, for you and me, our Kundalini awakening started when we were very young. So, we were almost children still and we hadn’t really set ourselves up in the world in a very fixed way. So, in that respect, the adjustment was easier. For my husband, it started when he was 50. Then he had his Kundalini awakening so that was a little bit more of a shock for his system.
RICK: He was already with you so that was pretty good.
TARA: Yes, that’s right. Another thing that I maybe want to say is about the tantric relationship. So, if you have a marriage or relationship with your partner, which I call the tantric relationship, then it makes it a lot easier to integrate these kinds of developments and tantric relationship really works that way. In a tantric relationship, you with your partner make an agreement, if you haven’t one already, that defines the purpose of your relationship and, ideally, you say the purpose of our relationship is that we both grow to our highest potential or enlightenment and that we use every conflict, every little thing that doesn’t work between us to help our development along. This entails that the person of the two who is more loving and wise should be some sort of a guide or teacher in the relationship. Theoretically, both partners could be leapfrogging each other. So, one time, one person is a little bit ahead and at another time the other person a little bit ahead. Usually, the person who is more ahead is the one with the stronger feminine side which is usually the woman. That’s how it is with my clients. That’s what I see in 98% of cases but it isn’t always like that – sometimes the man is more ahead and then he can be the guide for the woman. If both, the one who teaches and the one who receives the teachings, can appreciate that process then we call that a tantric relationship and tantric relationship means that everything is woven together. Tantra means weaving together, so, spirituality and sexuality, and spirituality and having a householder life and so forth. When you do that then you can really grow as a couple. Your growth is also accelerated because nobody knows you better than your own partner. Your own partner can be your best guru – better than any other kind of spiritual guru because they see all your little manipulation techniques and your little rationalizations and dishonesties and so on. They can put their finger on something and say, “Don’t do that,” and, “That’s not right,” and so forth. So, it doesn’t mean that every relationship has to break up when you have a Kundalini awakening. Quite the opposite. If you set it up like this, you can really accelerate your mutual development. That’s how I do it with my husband and I think it works extremely well.
RICK: Good. Ye. One point in this area is increased sensitivity. A lot of times spiritual people become a lot more sensitive and they think, “Oh, I couldn’t go to Walmart because I can’t stand the vibes or the neon lights are too bright,” or whatever. I think there’s something to be said for just toughening up a little bit, maybe, or integrating in the sense that you aren’t so susceptible to these things?
TARA: Well, I wouldn’t use the word toughening up because that doesn’t sound very kind to yourself. I encourage my clients to love themselves more with all their problems and weaknesses and with their sensitivities and then try to find a way in which that works. If you don’t want to go to the shopping mall anymore, which I can understand very well because I wouldn’t want to go there anymore, then you do more internet shopping. If you don’t want to go into a bar where they drink lots of alcohol and there’s a bit of rough vibes, which I also understand because I wouldn’t want to go there, then go to an old-fashioned English tea shop if you have one or a nice cafe in America where nice people, maybe older people, go. You can work around these things.
RICK: Yes. I’ll give you an example. Back when I was doing some of those long courses I told you about, if you went into town to buy a toothbrush or something, if you’re meditating six or eight hours a day, it was like, “Whoa, too much! I just can’t handle it.” Obviously, you come down from all that and get into a more normal routine and then, of course, you can do something ordinary like that. But some people stay so open and susceptible that they don’t seem to be able to ground themselves enough or integrate enough to be able to do normal things. I’m not talking about going to bars or anything like that.
TARA: So, in the Higher Consciousness Healing that I teach, we have four different steps. Maybe I could just use that as an example. We can do that.
RICK: Do I have a graphic on this or do you just want to tell us? I guess I don’t know.
TARA: No, I don’t think there is a graphic. So, the first step is making more contact with your higher consciousness. A lot of my clients come to me, they’re very much in the New Age. They’re not so much in a dedicated path – like TM or Buddhism or something – but they have read a few authors and they might not have a very clear idea of who their deity is. So, once that gets established, a lot gets easier because you have somebody, some body, a being to hold on to – like a father or mother being. When you lie in bed at night and you have a panic attack, that’s a good thing to have. The second step is that you start visualizing the deity here in your heart. So, it’s not up above you and you try to get up there. No, it dwells in your heart here and it expands in you, their light goes around you and makes a big bubble of light around you and all the images of Buddhas that we have in Tibetan Buddhism have this ball of light around them. This light represents the healthy ego boundaries. This is also something that people find really difficult; another paradox is that on the Hinayana path we let go of the ego and on the Vajrayana path we strengthen ego boundaries again – it seems very contradictory but both are true. So, when you have the sensory overload and sensitivity and so on then you can work with that bubble. You can visualize that it helps. When you’re very open and in the state of oneness then, like when an airplane flies by, you just feel it’s flying right through you and through your heart chakra and you think, “I’m going to die, I can’t stand an airplane noise,” it’s just a complete overreaction. Perhaps you go in a shop and you think, “Oh, my God, they’re all zombies.” You might even see some reality there but it’s too much to take. So, you want to be part of this human family. After all, we are born here, we have to live here for a while, we cannot really afford to see other people as zombies or something. As you said, it also goes away after a while but there’s a lot to be said for pacing yourself in this process. So, I know I’ve heard you’ve done all these long retreats and in Tibetan Buddhism, we have also long-term retreats such as three years retreats. I’m not really a friend of that because it is just pushing this process very, very strongly. Then you change so much so quickly that it becomes hard to integrate. I personally recommend a daily life practice, a regular daily life practice and maybe a meditation day here and there so that you can integrate all of that and then the changes are not too massive. So, you want this melting process of the ice. It should be a trickle; drip, drip, drip, a little bit at a time so that you can keep up with that and not just massive influx of material where you get confronted with contents of your mind which are like a hell experience. You don’t really want that if you can help it but some people do get that and so you need to calm this process down. That means doing less meditation, reading less spiritual books, watching fewer of these Buddhas at the Gas Pump videos for a while, just a few, not too many and just do normal things. Just do some gardening if you can or go and eat some ice cream with a friend in a cafe. Just pace yourself, it’s very important.
RICK: Yes, I agree and different people have different comfort levels I think for different things. You know, some people might be comfortable doing a retreat for a while, a month or something like that and don’t have any trouble integrating back into life. Other people might be completely blown away by that and it would be overload.
TARA: That’s right. Some people can cope with that but if you don’t cope – and you don’t know that really beforehand – then you’re a little bit in trouble afterwards.
RICK: Yes. You have a chapter here called Walking the Middle Path and there’s some interesting little sub-headings here, for instance, control versus surrender, helping oneself as opposed to relying on God. The reason I find them interesting is that, over the course of my life, I went through a seesaw process between exerting control or going with the flow or surrendering. Eventually, I think it has pretty much has worked itself out but I think it sometimes characterizes a transition from knowing oneself or perceiving oneself as an isolated, bound individual to knowing oneself as unbounded consciousness. You kind of flip back and forth between those because if you really merge with unbounded consciousness then you’re just going with God’s will but if you think of yourself as an individual, you’re in control. There has to be kind of a transitionary phase to get from one to the other. So, maybe you want to comment on that a little bit.
TARA: Yes, so in Buddhism, we have the famous “middle path” where you go between extremes and that doesn’t mean a lukewarm middle but it means that you have both of these poles of opposites to an extreme, so you have strong control and strong surrender at the same time. That is something where you think “Oh, how is that meant to go?” but you can learn that and, in the beginning, you oscillate between surrender and control back and forth. Every time you do it, you hit your head on the wall and it doesn’t work until you find that middle ground and get to both at the same time. So, let’s talk about control and surrender; we have a teaching in Buddhism called Kyerim and Dzogrim. So, Kyerim is making an intervention and it’s like ringing a bell, “bing.” So, that’s intervention, we do that with control and then there’s the sound like “bing” and that you surrender to as much as you can. So, then you have the surrender and let’s just say in one practice maybe you use a mantra. So, you use the mantra with control and then you surrender to its effect or when you use the Higher Consciousness Healing, there’s one stage where you’re meant to love yourself, where you say to yourself, “I wish myself to be happy and healed.” It’s important that you really say that with all your willpower so properly and not just mechanically. So, with a lot of control and then you surrender to that. So, you are receiving that loving-kindness that you’ve just given to yourself. So, you can see surrender and control can come together and both in a very strong degree and that’s what we want to do with all sorts of other contradictions that we seem to encounter on the spiritual path. There are certain contradictions that I’ve encountered over and over again with my clients, for example, control and surrender. They want to surrender – that’s their thing. They say, “Please, more surrender – that’s how you should do it.” And I say “No, for yourself in that situation, you need to have more control until you get that middle path.”
TARA: Or another thing that they want is they want to rely on God and not help themselves. They say maybe things like “It’s meant to be,” or “God wants me to do…,” and they don’t realize that they give power away in that respect. So, they need to learn to take back the power and say, “I want to do this,” and “Do I really want this to happen? If not, then I shouldn’t be doing this.” So, I found caution versus…
RICK: I have a whole list of them here. You want me to read them?
TARA: Yes, if you can just tell me some of them.
RICK: I have them all summarized at this. I’ll just read them through and then you can come in and whichever ones you want or interrupt me if you want to come in. So, there’s caution versus trust, rational thinking versus intuition.
TARA: Well, my clients, usually they don’t want to be cautious and they don’t want to think, “Oh, this spiritual teacher. He might be a charlatan,” but that’s exactly what they should think. I’m telling you what most of my clients do. I’m not saying everybody does this but these are just typical contradictions that people have. Then intuition versus rationality. With intuition they say, “I feel so good. I have a feeling everything’s fine” and the rational mind, “Oh, no, that’s something for stupid, little, boring people they just use a rational mind.” But that’s not a good idea – you need to use both of them in equal measure because with your intuition you can be spectacularly right but you can also be spectacularly wrong. If it’s so wrong and you don’t use your rational mind to really think through your wonderful idea then you can have really big problems afterwards.
RICK: Yes, there’s a great verse in the Gita that I like a lot – it says you have control over action alone, never over its fruits. So, obviously, you do have control over what you’re doing now which is another one of your points here – planning the future versus being in the now. When the result of that action comes, you’ve already sown that seed, you don’t have control then. You’re doing new actions that you have control over. Yes, go ahead.
TARA: So, this thing of being in the now, as you know, that’s very popular these days. There are some very famous books with something like that in the title and that’s people saying, “Oh, I’m just in the now, everything will be fine.” Not so, you can indulge in your addictions and be perfectly happy in the now while you’re eating your donuts and that tastes really good and drink your beer and so on. No, you have to really think forward and say, “If I eat these ten donuts in one go, how will I feel afterwards?” or “If I do this and that,” and both of these things need to be there in equal measure so that you always anticipate the consequences of your actions. People think there’s an easy way out of that, “Just be in the now, everything will be good.” Quite the opposite.
RICK: Yes, I used to have a friend who was a diabetic and he literally would buy a whole box of donuts and eat them. Then he would make himself throw up because he couldn’t, obviously, deal with the consequences of eating the donuts. I don’t know why I had to tell everybody that. Irene says, “Me neither.” Okay, let me just run through a few more of these – interrupt me if you want to comment on them – but I think this is interesting because it has to do with the whole integration thing. That there are these paradoxical kinds of things and they are not opposed to one another, they need to be integrated, yes, integrated is the best word. So that you can have both – you can have your intuition and your rational thinking. So, another one would be making judgments versus acceptance.
TARA: Yeah, that’s an interesting one. So, people say, “But one shouldn’t judge,” and they don’t realize when they say that, well, that’s a judgment in itself.
TARA: You just judged. You judged all the people who judge.
TARA: It’s not possible to do that and if you’re just accepting then there’s a danger you end up like a doormat, everybody tramples over you. Basically, with all of these contradictions, people want to have spiritual teachings that say, “Do this and only this. So, be loving, be more loving, that’s it.” But that’s never true because if you’re only ever loving and you can’t stand up when somebody invades you or does some something bad with you and you can’t exhibit some power where you say, “Stop!” and so on, then all your love will not be helpful. So, it is always about balancing opposites in a way that is conducive to the spiritual path. That’s difficult because our mind doesn’t want to think that way. We don’t think, “Oh, I do this but and then I need to think of the opposite and do that as well. Oh, it’s so complicated. I don’t want to hear this anymore,” but that’s really what you have to do or what we all have to do.
RICK: I think that one way of defining the spiritual path is the balancing of opposites or the integration of opposites. I mean, obviously, ultimately, you are utterly cosmic, you’re, you’re divine and yet you’re an individual. You’re an ocean and you’re a wave and it’s not a matter of either or, it’s a matter of both/and.
TARA: That’s right. There are also people who say, “Oh, I have no ego, so I’m enlightened. And that’s it.” That’s really not true because in Tibetan Buddhism, we have the doctrine of The Two Truths so that you have the absolute self in which you are in a state of oneness and one with everything but at the same time, paradoxically, you also have to be like an individual and in your personal relationships. That’s also something that people when they enter these bliss states that often have that problem and that they can, on their meditation cushion, they can go into this amazing states of bliss. Then they get up and into family life maybe or with their partner and then they get really big rages because they experience their children or their partner as getting them out of the bliss. Then they assert themselves in wrong ways and not really understanding that they need to work on both levels. So, we need to learn to have a healthy ego (which is psychological work) and work on states of oneness (which is spiritual work) and all of that has to happen simultaneously.
RICK: Not only work on it but eventually it becomes second nature, it becomes one’s natural way of functioning. Then you are both cosmic and individual at the same time with no conflict between the two, it just becomes a spontaneous way of functioning.
TARA: Yes, I would say that you really bring that together, that you are an individual and, at the same time, you are in tune with infinite love and compassion – you can only do that when you’re in the deity state. That’s exactly what that is and you’re functioning as an individual and have all this loving-kindness that goes to everybody. I don’t think that from our own, old ego self, we could ever accomplish that because that’s always either/or.
RICK: Yes, and so what we’re saying here – and we’ll wrap this one up because I have some questions came in that I want to ask you – is that we’re aspiring to a state which reconciles these polarities and where you can be cautious and trusting, rational and intuitive, planning and spontaneous, making judgments and accepting, making changes in the outside world and turning inward and meditating. With all these things you can be in a calm, serene Samadhi state and dynamic playing tennis or something, doing something dynamic at the same time, all this stuff gets integrated.
TARA: Yeah, that’s right and I’ve used that chapter because most of my clients they err on a particular side: they all want to be more intuitive, more surrendering, more loving and they neglect the other part where they have more power, more control. It’s like the word “control”, some people treat it like a dirty word but if you’re at a certain place in your spiritual development, you need a lot of control. So, I replaced the word “control” – because it’s such a trigger word for so many people – with the word “mastery.” So, mastery is better.
RICK: Yes, that sounds cooler.
TARA: You have to get mastery over certain emotions, you need to tame those impulses and no amount of surrender to the emotional content of your mind will help you to let go of it. You have to you have to really learn to master that.
RICK: Yes. Okay, good. Let me ask you some of these questions that came in. This one is from Amelia in Portland, Oregon. “Can you please speak to the issues of illness with Kundalini awakenings. I experienced a work-related injury that led to various rashes and I believe that coincided with a Kundalini awakening.”
TARA: Well, having a Kundalini awakening doesn’t mean that we are always healthy, unfortunately. It would be nice but I will say that from my observation – and after all, I’ve worked with 1,500 clients – altogether, they’re a really healthy bunch. When you think every second person has heart problems or cancer problems in the general population. In my clientele, hardly ever, how many people did I have with cancer? I can count them: one, two, three maybe? It’s been very, very rare including those over 50. So why is that? First of all, I believe it’s because the Kundalini process drives us to make our life healthier and better in every way. So, we eat more healthily, we exercise and we do all the healthy things that we’re supposed to do. We can more easily let go from addictive kinds of eating or alcohol and so on. So, in that way, we are healthier but also healthier through the clearing out of the unconscious mind of repressed emotions. Repressed emotions can make you very sick. Repressed anger is a major contributor to – and that’s not only me saying that, there’s also studies about that – is a major contributor to a lot of illnesses. So, if you can actually allow the anger to come up and you’re liberated and you let it go and through various techniques, then the anger cannot cause arthritis or Parkinson’s or all sorts of other horrible diseases. Now, can the Kundalini awakening make you sick? I personally say, “No!” The Kundalini is not a thing anyway – it’s a consciousness expansion. Can a conscious expansion make you sick? I don’t think so. I think, if anything, it makes you healthier through the processes that I’ve just described. Now, can you have all sorts of illnesses while you have Kundalini awakening? Absolutely, because there’s still enough negativity in your unconscious mind that causes these seeds of illness to spread in you. That’s totally possible but I draw a line between what I call Kundalini symptoms and real disease. Kundalini symptoms might cause pain and discomfort but they don’t cause real, physical symptoms that a normal doctor would diagnose as disease. So, when there’s a diagnosis of some sort there then I say, “Okay, that’s disease and it needs to be treated and we can work on the psychotherapeutic level – also with meditation – on resolving the issue but it’s not a Kundalini symptom.” Typical Kundalini symptoms are these pains and that’s always because they are emotions that are kind of half stuck in your unconscious mind and don’t really come out completely. That is the first thing that you feel, you feel it as pain. So, when we are in the ice state then we are numb, we feel nothing, feel always good. Then when the ice is half-melted then we feel that as pain, when the ice is melted into water, we feel the water as emotions. Then when we learn to use those emotions and turn them around and liberate them, we feel them as bliss and the bliss is then the steam. So, we always have the same aggregate; ice, half-melted ice, water and steam. That coincides with numbness, pain, negative emotions, bliss.
TARA: So, I hope I answered that question.
RICK: I think you did. Obviously, there’s more elaboration on this in your book which we’ll talk about before we could conclude. Amelia had a second question. “Can the Kundalini awakening have begun years ago. I’ve been on a spiritual path for over 40 years and began having prophetic dreams 10 years ago.” I would just add here that some say that a Kundalini awakening can have begun in a past life and it just continues in this life. Maybe you agree with that? I don’t know.
TARA: When I first looked at my own life then I thought my Kundalini had started when I was 24 and then when I understood a bit more about the Kundalini and thought about it more deeply, I realized, no, it actually started at 17. I see it like this: if you have a Kundalini awakening very early in life, like in your teenage years or early 20s maybe, that’s a continuation from the last life. It just needs the right trigger. In a way, you grow up and you grow into your Kundalini awakening. That’s how it was very much for myself. Was that the whole question?
RICK: She just mentioned that she’s been on a spiritual path for 40 years and began having prophetic dreams 10 years ago.
TARA: Yes. So, if she looks for those five criteria. So. interest in spirituality. Tick. Prophetic dreams that could go in the direction of paranormal experiences – particularly if they’ve come true – and now then she needs to look for intensified emotions, energy movements in the body and increased sensitivity – when that started really to become very strong and clearly visible. Now, that’s where I would, if I would work with her, pinpoint her start of a Kundalini rising.
RICK: Okay. Here’s a question from Mitchell in Nova Scotia, Canada. He said, “I was in a car accident that also caused my Kundalini to rise. Sometimes, I have difficulty discerning between the Kundalini symptoms and the physical symptoms. What do you think is the best way to go about this?”
TARA: I tell you how I do it. If people say to me, “I’ve got bad physical symptoms,” I send them to the doctor. I don’t just say “Okay, I believe you – this is all Kundalini,” because that would be irresponsible. If the doctor says “No, there is nothing wrong with you. We checked you all through with a neurologist and everything and you had an MRI and now everything’s fine.” Then we say “Okay, then we see it as Kundalini symptoms.” Other than that, if you go to a physiotherapist and they can say, “Yes, this is all very, very cramped up in your shoulder and you need to do this exercise.” Please do the exercise, listen to your physiotherapist. Also, if a doctor says you have a disease and here’s the diagnosis, take it seriously. You don’t need to take prescription drugs if you think you have a better option but take it seriously.
RICK: Yes. Okay. Here’s one from Martin Klein. I’m not sure where Martin is located but he says, “Referring to the earlier topic of addiction, I experienced twice when I fell in love and my heart opened, that my decades old addiction just fell away for a few weeks but it came back later because ‘I’ couldn’t sustain the openness of the heart. Do you recommend discipline and building the will to resist the addiction or, rather, emphasize opening the heart, or both, or something else?”
TARA: Opening the heart and doing more loving-kindness definitely is a good thing. For addiction, I recommend going to one of those groups, they have been shown – like AA – or some other addiction group. They have been shown to be very effective and then you can also do the Higher Consciousness Healing – it’s all described in my book – it’s not very difficult to learn and do that in parallel. I’ve had clients with addictions and they got rid of it very easily. I’m not saying everybody can do it but I definitely would say, “Try it and see how you go.”
RICK: Martin, I interviewed a guy last week whose interview I’ll be putting up tomorrow named Diederik Wolsak. He has some really interesting things to say about addiction having been addicted himself and he has a process where he works with people which sounds pretty successful. So, check that out, too. Okay, is there anything Tara – I’m sure that a lot of more things we can talk about – but is there anything that you feel is important that we haven’t had a chance to get to that you want to bring up?
TARA: Yes, maybe we can talk about the stages of consciousness. There’s another book I’ve written, it’s called “Stairway to Heaven” in which I outline nine stages of consciousness.
RICK: I have a graphic for that. There we go.
TARA: Yes. Ah yes, you have a graphic.
RICK: I’m showing that now.
TARA: As you can see, there’s two flights of stairs and it describes the whole development from people who are very unconscious to full enlightenment. The idea is that we have to go through this process, through these nine steps in an orderly fashion. We cannot leave anything out. So, it’s a bit of an expanded version of the four levels of spiritual practice that I described earlier. We start with the Innocence level, where we live in groups of people like in our family or tribal people living in groups. There’s a certain passivity, a lot of trust and a lack of desire. This is the proverbial Garden of Eden and people want to go back to that instead of climbing up the stairway of heaven. They lose this Innocence stage and they find that very painful and they want to go back to it but the idea is that you shouldn’t go back to this unawareness but try to develop to full awareness which is enlightenment. Then maybe something happened to somebody who is on the Innocence level, maybe they are excluded from their group or that see that other people can do so much more than them and that catapults them out of this pleasant dream. They wake up and they are very rageful and very angry and full of envy. All these poisons of the mind come up in them. This sounds quite catastrophic but, really, it is the starting point of the spiritual path. When we think about children, this is what we see in them when they have the terrible twos or in our teenagers, they become very rebellious, very angry, and want to do it their way. So, some people get stuck on that level all their lives and they do bad things and they’re violent and they’re negative and so on and they lie and they steal. Then they experience lots of negative repercussions and then that might then get them on to the next stage which is the Obedience stage. There people get into understanding that they have to be dutiful and that they have to adhere to all sorts of rules. If they go too far with that then they become very self-sacrificing. They follow, typically, fundamentalist religion and they establish patriarchy so women have to submit to men. Gay people have to be banned. What else?
RICK: Lots of things.
TARA: Yes, sex before marriage is sinful and all of these things. So, very, very repressive. Then maybe some people realize that the people in their fundamentalist religion, the priests, that they don’t adhere to those rules themselves, they visit prostitutes, they do all sorts of bad things and that shakes them out of that state.
RICK: I saw a funny graphic the other day, which said, “Fundamentalist, when are you going to realize that spending eternity with you is not a selling point.”
TARA: Then they see, no, all the sacrifice is too much and then they enter into the Ambition stage. The Ambition stage is the predominant stage of our society. So, it’s materialistic, very rational, very scientific, it brings a lot of good things: democracy, free speech. So, we shouldn’t look down on that but there is a drawback and that is when people are in this worldview, they cannot cope with really bad, terrible things. So, maybe a child dies or they get cancer and then they say, “Why me?” and they also feel, at some point, very meaningless because, if everything is random, your whole life is meaningless. So, there is some sort of malaise or depression that sets in and that catapults people on to the next stage which is the Sharing stage. That’s where people become very interested in protecting the environment and having equalness in relationships. They say, “Women and men are totally the same and we are all the same and the weakest members, they should always be included in the group.” That’s all very wonderful. There are some drawbacks of this stage and that is that people often feel often quite powerless, that they’re in a state of grief because the environment gets destroyed. They often feel, “I have these wounds and my parents gave me this trauma and now I’m the victim of this trauma and that nothing can be done about it.” So, then they are stuck in this eternal grief. Then once they sense, at some point, that that’s not the answer and that there’s more to it then they turn around on the stairway of consciousness and go the Responsibility stage. I believe a lot of your viewers who watch these videos, they’re probably on the Responsibility stage I could imagine. That’s where people feel quite empowered again, they’re not stuck in that grief again. They still want to save the environment but they don’t feel so bad about all of this. They also become very motivated and very able to achieve again. That’s really where the Hinayana path starts – the mindfulness – and they start mindfulness meditation, observing, also all the manifesting your dreams, the law of attraction that all belongs into that category. From that point on, people are very motivated to develop. So, they are not getting propelled by one crisis after the other on to the stages of consciousness. They then go to the next stage which is called Love where they very strongly meditate on love, forgiveness, making that the centerpiece of their life and that would be the Mahayana. From there on, you start getting bliss experiences, you start working with the chakras, you get the Kundalini awakening, ideally only then. Then you get to the Bliss stage where you intensely work on these bliss experiences, on your chakra work, you often withdraw into a hermitage, you withdraw from society and work on yourself. From then on, you get the first experiences as experiencing yourself as the deity and that would be the Enlightenment stage. Then you come out of your hermitage, you come out into the world, yes, you’re on stage, you act in the world, you are recognized as this being that can really change something. People will recognize you as such and then you can act and do a lot of good in the world. So, I found that people have to go through all of these stages, that you cannot jump from a rageful Dominance stage to Love stage or Bliss stage. It’s not possible, you can go through these stages rather quickly but you will spend at least months or years on each stage and that starts basically in childhood. We all start on the Innocence level as children, as babies because then we are trusting – even if you have bad parents, we still trust them and we are very dependent on them. Then gradually we grow up and, let’s say, we are teenagers then some people are already on the Ambition stage or Sharing stage and then in our adult life, we can develop further.
RICK: Some of those stages reminded me of the ten ox-herding pictures in Zen, especially the final stages where you’re enlightened and then you come back into the world and help people.
TARA: That’s great. Yes, I didn’t know that.
RICK: Yeah, oh, that’s kind of a classic thing in Zen, the ten ox-herding pictures. Anyway, so that’s great. We’ve covered a lot. Let me just show some of your websites here. You have one which is a general one, Tara Springett, Buddhist therapist and teacher. Then you have another one, a Kundalini Symptoms website which looks similar in terms of the graphic but has different content and you’ve written a bunch of books. I imagine that the book most relevant to this conversation would be your “Healing Kundalini Symptoms” book. You have it there, hold it up. Yes, there you go. I’ll have a link to that book on your page on batgap.com so people can just click to it and go to it.
TARA: Yes, I also have a second book on Kundalini, “Enlightenment through the Path of Kundalini,” which is a more in-depth explanation of how to awaken the Kundalini, if you wish to do that.
RICK: Good. I think I’ve already set up that page and linked to both of those. Or people can just search for your name on Amazon or whatever and find all these. So, thanks, Tara, I’ve enjoyed spending this time with you.
TARA: Thank you, Rick, and I enjoyed it also.
RICK: Yes. We’ll be in touch and thanks to those who are have been listening or watching. Next week, I have a young poet named Chelan Harkin and people are really excited about her. She’s kind of like a young Rumi and she says these poems just kind of come through her. She was never even really that into poetry but these beautiful things come through and so that’ll be a little different than all the other conversations I’ve had that I can remember. Anyway, I’m looking forward to that one and there’s an upcoming interviews page on batgap.com where you can see what we have scheduled so I won’t just go through them all right now. But stay tuned. And if you go to the website, you can. You’ll see some other things there like signing up for email notification and audio podcasts and stuff. So just explore the menus. Alright, thanks for listening or watching and thanks again, Tara.
TARA: Thank you to you.