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Awe of Endless Impermanence: The Crux of Spiritual Emergence-Emergency

Excerpt from Words From the Soul: Time, East/West Spirituality, and Psychotherapeutic Narrative (pgs.183-186) by Stuart Sovatsky  
In continuing our explorations of time, psychotherapeutic narrative, and spirituality, I will suggest that in vivo even the most psychotic, psychopathic, suicidal, or organic conditions are riddled with spiritual poignancy and even the most profound enlightenment confronts its attainer with new problems and challenges. For the essence of "crisis" is a temporal urgency which can hover ambiguously between "danger" and "maturational opportunity."

Some have said this is the import of The Cross (or Crux-crisis): the vertical breakthrough of the Eternal into horizontal, mundane time. Thus, the inherent ambiguity in the terms spiritual emergency and spiritual emergence. For, glimmers of eternality inherent to all moments shine moreso within such hormonally heated pressures, whatever the inciting fires. And such crisis-born epiphanies of the eternal can easily be misconstrued as the interminability of some specific difficulty now at hand.

Thus, conventional therapists with their past-oriented hermeneutic can overinterpret a client's reported fears of "endless" rage or his tears as signs of "vast pockets of long-repressed affect." So assured, they proceed with years of cathartic work seeking discharges from the past exclusively. Any awe of the eternal that broke into ordinary time via the crisis and was also part of the grievous moment is missed. Bereavements, momentous beginnings, and crises of all sorts commonly stir the impermanence-awe into mundane time.

Even the child's terrible disillusionment of his parental safety net becoming a web of horrific abuse partakes of this posttraumatic awe where a vast, sheer space ruptures into his life via security-ripping events. Sheer and (nonomnipotently) benign? Perhaps so. Thus, child protection agencies and other responsible adults try to deal with those aspects of abuse beyond the nonomnipotence of spiritual succor, yet, hopefully, guided by its inexhaustive wisdom.

Far less horrifically, attachment to a moment of bliss that then passes results characteristically in a disorienting anguish. Thus, the fleetings of a too-prized ecstasy can be nostalgically gripped by the dubious inquiry of "When is that good time going to return?" instead of being appreciated as a fleeting grace of endless impermanence, or as poignant longing. The condescending impatience of "spiritual materialism," can skip one over much of life, waiting only to meditate, assume an air of superiority, or become drug dependent, seeking only repeat peak experiences.

The so-called transcendence or psychosis? overly binary diagnostic debate initiated by my predecessor at the Kundalini Clinic, Lee Sannella, often revolves around this phenomenon of some inner soteriological (or "redemptive healing") struggle being suddenly and oscillatingly blown up to staggering proportions by the energetic stirrings. That the first chakra, where kundalini resides, is associated with the adrenals is an anatomical way of saying that spiritual awe and fear (not necessarily danger-evoked fearsomeness, for there may be little to fear, except awe misconstrued as fear, followed by fear-inducing, imagined dangers) are close cousins.

Here we encounter the Kierkegaardian "sickness unto death": a circularity of skepticism/cynicism regarding anything benignly awesome in someone who now encounters "awe of the eternal," yet unnamed as such. Both struggling to believe in this eternality and unable to fully enough believe, he longs for an ending to the discomfort of this no-man's-land that does not come. For his situation is unlike longing for an ordinary discomfort to end. Indeed, how difficult to sense an end to even a slight hint of the Infinite! And worse when It cannot be named credibly as such. Thus, this verbal misconstrual helps accelerate fear into panic: the harrowing thought of "what next?" mushrooms upon itself and all around, horribly.

For, what characterizes this awe most is how completely beyond egoic intentions it stretches, even if we do name it properly. Only soul identity can measure up, a matter that for the afflicted is incredulous. (Yet, such anxieties are exactly the prepubescent struggles of the postgenital puberties into the endless soul identity.) The alternating despair that there might be no ending, even in death, and then that death might be an obliterating end - whichever stand one takes, both are dreadful. To call such problems and their trials of faith a matter of "premature transcendence" underestimates the potency of the Divine Revelation which, according to their own reports, has jolted even the most matured of saints and saviors for thousands of year.

As well, any specific feeling or worry experienced within this Kierkegaardian "category of the infinite" thus portends obsessively to last for an eternity. Sick with a cold, one thinks, "It's okay, in two days, it'll be over"; sick with treatable cancer, on thinks (hopes), "After the treatment, I'll be okay." But touching a moment of endlessness throws any worry onto this vast temporal context with its unique hormonal substrate, thus the inherent soteriological sentiments shudder. And, as I assert, unnamed as such, we touch it in many moments: rushing in traffic or to meet deadlines, at funerals or weddings, having colds or AIDS, or feeling the mind bloom into unmani mudra. Its extreme tumults, however, can lead to (what we call) psychotic terrors, manic flights or depressive spiralings.

Thus, unless we can make subtle temporal distinctions that include possible "Awesome Eternality Experiences," these glimmerings of the endlessness of time can result in us believing that it is our mundane worry that could last forever. Or, in the soteriological shudder - if deprived of a sense of the merciful and the full potencies of gratitude, apology, and forgiveness - we can become entangled in the overly deterministic purgatorial narratives of Jonathan Edwardian moralities or of deterministic adult-child syndromatic etiologies and terminal survivorhood identities.

One feels doomed, hears inner voices of damnation, or obsessively believes herself (vengefully, then sorrowfully) to be a determined product of past events. Deprived of a yogic hermeneutic and praxes, some will fear the "strange" bodily sensations that are auspicious quickenings of the postgenital maturations. In any case, in this far more vast time sense, our problems (and the possible iatrongenics of their too severely worded narratives) mingle with the Eternal and now we begin to say we feel "doomed with no sense of an ending."

And, ironically, the greater the sense of eternal time - the eerie deathless grandeur of heaven - the greater the potential terror (or derealizing lull) of this seeming endless hell. And learning to accept or "witness" one's dread is only relatively helpful, for this guidance might never plumb the temporal depths that flow beneath it all: accepting the eternality sense itself and partaking of its mercies in which all things keep passing and, most particularly, perpetual "presence" itself: This is the uroboric "deep present," which would seem to be a far more awesome matter than many present-oriented therapies allow for.  

Cit-Sakti Inner and World Peace A Kundalini Awakening Kundalini Resource Guide Kundalini Glossary
   Cathy Woods Vancouver BC Canada