therenegadepharmicist

My interview with Ian is the next in a series of interviews intended to help others like yourself to gain a broader perspective on awakening through reading about others’ experience.  My hope is that it provides you insight.  I welcome anyone who wishes to participate in these interviews.  -P.


 

1. What was your spiritual background before awakening?

 

I was born way back in 1953. By the age of five or six I sensed that there was a lot more to life than normally presented, and that the course of my life would be different to most others’. A while later I figured that mind, or consciousness, was key, and spiritual life just developed from there.

I got into alternative culture, communal lifestyles, in the mid-1970s, and this included ‘consciousness initiation’ courtesy of LSD. This revealed to me that consciousness is not at all fixed, and that consensus reality is just a very small slice of an infinite-sized pie.

Buddhism appealed to me. There were two things about it that I found great: it was based on direct experience, rather than on dogma and belief, as seemed to be the case in the Abrahamic religions; and it provided tools for consciousness transformation, especially meditation, which I took to enthusiastically. I was ordained as a Buddhist, into an Order that was non-monastic, did not insist on celibacy, and which intended to provided Buddhist teachings in a form more readily understandable for those brought up in western cultures. For a decade or more I lived, worked, and breathed Buddhism: meditation teaching, and being chair of a Buddhist centre in London, played an important part.

The time arrived when, rather than being a ticket to freedom, Buddhism began to feel like a restriction. My unique daemon was crying out to be let free, and I underwent the sometimes difficult process of disentanglement and de-identification from ‘being a Buddhist’.

Around this time I entered into an intensive period of shamanic journeying, which woke me up (again) to how much is going on just beyond the range of the normal conscious mind. After saying goodbye to organized Buddhism, I dipped my toes into acquaintance with a number of entheogenic teacher plants, then more recently studied and practiced various aspects of western mysticism, especially Tarot lore and alchemy. l still resonate deeply with their appeal to the uniqueness of each human being and their journey through life. The Fool of the Tarot.

All of which was simultaneously foundational preparation and no preparation at all for the eventual arising of kundalini….

2. Do you know if you did anything to trigger your awakening?

With every day that passes, I see more clearly how everything that has happened in my life has played some part in everything else! I experience life less in a linear fashion, but more like an ever-moving gestalt, or re-forming mandala, like a kaleidoscope.

I don’t know that ‘I’ did anything to trigger the awakening, but several events stand out as pre-awakening, a kind of heating up period.

A bit more than two years before kundalini manifested, I fell severely ill. At one point I doubted whether I would ever recover from the strain that my body was put under by violent coughing fits and general unwellness. As the illness abated, I became aware of something ‘Other’ being in contact with me. ‘Things are going to be different from now on’ it said. ‘For example, you aren’t going to be doing that job anymore. Life is changed.’

This ‘Other’ became a guide. I had no choice, really, but felt grateful anyway. It had a programme completely different to that of ego’s concerns, the concerns of daily life, as Castaneda puts it. It didn’t seem to care whether I had money, job security, friends, family, or a roof over my head. It was just interested in my own spiritual evolution, for want of a better term. It was simultaneously a bit scary and a great relief.

Two years later, I became aware of this remarkable soft, tender feeling which would radiate from somewhere between my hips. I had never experienced anything like it. Then ‘She’ appeared. I was having an afternoon cup of tea, as Brits are wont to do, when she jumped out of a page and spoke to me. ‘I am here. You need wait no longer.’ I had no idea what this was about, and this female vision seemed to have a nerve talking to me like that. Nevertheless, I felt a deep sense of relief, with a feeling that indeed a long waiting phase was over. Over the following few months She would sometimes turn up in my meditations, and we would converse through direct mind-to-mind communication.

During this period I was doing Tarot spreads nearly every day. Not ‘Am I going to win a lot of money this week?’ Tarot, but spreads involving the elements, the seasons, the solstices and equinoxes, the humours, Jungian psychological types, directions of space, and others. I did not understand why, but knew that I had to do this. In retrospect, I feel that I was creating mandalas on a regular basis, exploring wholeness and the interconnectedness of everything through symbols. Entering a mode of experiencing where everything takes place through correspondence and synchronicity, and linear notions are left behind. This seemed a vital part of the preparation for eventual kundalini awakening.

3. What was your initial experience like?

I would wake up at 2am with a silver goddess dancing in my perineal region. Her shining brightness would light up the darkness of the night, and her ecstatic dancing softened and aroused a sleeping energy. As it became more fluid, the energy started to rise up my back. Over the course of several days during meditation, this energy made its way up the length of my back and head, before flowing out of my crown and descending again like a liquid crystal fountain. I would sometimes be surrounded by angelic figures, and She would sometimes be in attendance.

Then, one day, it all stopped. A while afterwards, a different kind of energy emerged, rising very slowly and laboriously upwards. It was far heavier, denser, than the previous one, its vibration less subtle and its diameter quite thick. It is the one time that the ‘kundalini as snake’ notion has really appropriate. It was like a massive python, which rose up before taking a diversion into my colon and intestines. This region had caused me distress intermittently for decades, and the energy passed through slowly, healing and bringing to life this wounded part of my body-mind as it did so. Day after day this occurred during meditation.

In retrospect, I could liken the initial fountain of energy to a trailer, and the beginning of the really substantial energy to the main film…

4. How has your awakening progressed? What year did awakening come for you?

The kundalini appeared in August 2017, and the process is ongoing. It has been very evident every day since then. ‘The agony and the ecstasy’ sums it up pretty well, all on a steep learning curve.

To start with, the energy focussed on the lower and middle abdomen. It encountered many blocks and obstacles, mainly concerned with my holding on to myself, who I thought I was. The energy would continue to push and probe uncomfortably, until I was able to let go. Sometimes this process was painful, and one time I had a migraine the likes of which I had never, during my many years of migraines, experienced before. Energy welled up through my abdomen in great waves, pushing up hard against my stomach and causing repeated uncontrollable nausea. I needed to have my wife sit with me and hold my hand, I was so frightened by the power and immensity of the process.

This phase was usually accompanied by much bliss, which made the bad times more tolerable. There was an erotic quality to much of it; inner yab-yum would manifest spontaneously, but there was no wish to express or release the sexual energy in normal ways. It was a very specific, unique kind of erotic feeling.

Then, one day, the kundalini energy started working on my heart, and I basically melted. A completely tender and loving feeling emerged. I would walk around feeling, not so much ‘love’ as ‘in love’. Sometimes this feeling would lead to my crying, it was so beautiful. This was about four months after the initial awakening of the energy.

And then it made its way into my head and my brain. It brought out issues connected to identity, ideas, beliefs, ideologies, all of which manifested as obstacles in the way of direct experience of spiritual reality, and which had to go. As belief gives way, so does feeling emerge as a worthy guide in life.

Having said all that, it’s not a tidy linear process at all. Nowadays, the energy homes in wherever it feels fit: shoulder, leg, stomach, arm, all over the place. Sometimes it feels as if it’s returning to finish off a piece of clearing-out work, or recycling, working in the same place on a different level.

5. What do you feel kundalini/awakening is in your experience?

The truthful answer is that I cannot say for sure. But kundalini seems to be an energy with my best interests at heart, even if that goes completely against what my preconceptions are. She possesses intelligence and She possesses intent. She means to purify every obstacle barring a more complete experience of direct spiritual reality, and will do whatever is needed, even if that means destroying all that is ‘worldly’, ‘conventional’ or ‘ego-based’ in my life. I suspect that She doesn’t really mind too much if ‘I’ die in the process, physically and literally – things will pick up where they left off next time round.

Maybe She is both the means and the end. That is a paradox which seems to ring true.

6. Did you have challenges with the energy? And if so, what did you do that helped you get through those periods of difficulty? Or has it always been easy?

Many challenges! All the time, really. I have touched on a few of the physical challenges. And there is the challenge of being propelled into a whirlpool of energetic activity where every day is different and in its own way rich. Continually being pushed psychically, spiritually. Every day feeling yourself change.

It is almost a cliché in kundalini, but it’s true. The key to riding the waves is ‘surrender’. To begin with, surrender was very difficult – it was not an attitude that I had ever needed to adopt in this way. The ability developed as trust and faith grew: as every dodgy, confusing and perilous situation turned out to be for the better, and the reality slowly seeped through my thick skull that kundalini loved me, and knew better than me.

7. What do you think makes the experience easy or difficult?

I have partly answered this question already. Surrender is the secret. If I look back to my notes during the initial months after the energy appeared, I find lots of references to ‘clenching’ and ‘holding on’, especially in my abdomen, adding to the tightness and tension that had knotted there for decades already. None of the meditation I had done had taught me how to release, to let go. Three months in, a hernia appeared in my lower abdomen, on the left (feminine, ida) side, which required eventual surgery. This simply has to be connected.

8. How has the experience impacted or changed your life?

To echo other interviewees: everything is different now. One big change has been that ‘understanding’ has given way to ‘knowing’ through felt experience. I used to expend so much energy trying to sort everything out in my head. That is no longer the way.

If people ask me what I do with my life, I answer ‘As little as possible.’ Though this is partially a joke, it also holds much truth. Along with ‘surrender’, the key to living with kundalini, for me, is to give Her enough time to uncoil as She wishes, to do Her own thing. And for me to digest everything that’s happening, which is usually a lot. So I try to lead a pretty minimalist life – even then, it throws up plenty to do.

Has kundalini affected my relationships with other people? Yes. I have a more solitary life now, but contentedly so. I am cautious about whom I talk kundalini. Even amongst those with a long experience of meditation and spiritual life, it is most frequently a conversation stopper (there are a few exceptions). I think people are uneasy about it because it has this physical aspect, and because it is something that you don’t control. ‘Kundalini does you’, as the saying goes, and people get jumpy about that aspect.

I am fortunate that my marriage has survived thus far without too much collateral damage. My wife is marvellously accepting; she has also known me as a bit of an ‘outlier’ from way before kundalini appeared.

9. Were you a seeker before awakening came?

 It’s a funny thing, but I’ve never related to the idea of being a seeker. Maybe, even at an early age, I felt that I knew what I was doing, where I was going. On one level, there was nothing to look for, it was already there.

10. Did you have a practice before awakening? After?

I have said a bit about this already. I have done plenty of ‘bhavana’ (development) practice within Buddhist tradition. Focussing on the breath, development of loving-kindness: these are basic Buddhist meditation practices. Having a more profound impact was visualisation of a particular Buddha/Bodhisattva form, which was more of a personal sadhana. This was focal for many years, and kept me going during periods when everything else seemed to be falling apart. It is worth mentioning that figures and forms have always spoken to me, be it Buddhas or Bodhisattvas, Michelangelo sculptures, Titian courtesans, Tarot magicians and priestesses, or She announcing her presence one spring afternoon.

I gave up these practices many years ago, but the passion for meditation was rekindled when I came across a section in one of Castaneda’s books where Don Juan tells him to ‘listen to sounds’. This ignited a new attitude, and I began meditating with enthusiasm once more. Listening, being present and quietly receptive, rather than trying to ‘do’ anything. Being focussed in an unfocussed way. In this manner I began to open up to influences outside myself; to the divine , the infinite.

11. Did you employ, or do you employ now, traditional meditation practices, and if so, how have they been helpful to you? If non-traditional, could you describe them?

I have continued with this ‘listening and surrendering’ meditation since kundalini awoke. It has been the most essential ingredient in negotiating the unfolding of the energy. Most days I will spend at least two hours in openness and receptivity, allowing the energy to unfold as it will, with one session in the morning, one in the early evening. Give the energy the space it requires, and all will be well in the end. If I don’t meditate like this, the flow is far less smooth, obstacles appear, and I generally feel very bad.

Several months after the initial arising of the energy I became painfully aware of how I had developed some very bad habits during my years of meditating previously. I found it impossible to sit in normal half-lotus without subtly trying to direct or control the flow, which is fatal. In this particularly explosive phase, powerful volcanic surges of golden light were crashing up my abdomen, and I was afraid that they would do real damage, physically. An excess of pingala. I changed to meditating lying down, and a far more balanced energy flow immediately appeared. This is how I meditate nowadays.

I do some basic hatha yoga most days, nothing much, but the stretching helps a lot. And most days walk for about an hour among trees and by the river which I am fortunate to live close by.

12. Has awakening affected your work? If so, how?

I no longer involve in gainful work, which is just as well, since I would find most types of work impossible with kundalini active. Generally, activity has to be in bits and pieces, quite gentle, nothing too strenuous. I used to be a mountain walker, but big walks don’t work well with the kundalini energy. I would like this to change, but I have to see how things shape up in the future.

13. What do you think is happening with the large numbers of awakenings taking place today? Why do you think this is happening?

The simple reply is that I don’t really know. Having said that, we do seem to be living in a time of increasing polarisation. The light is very light, the dark is very dark. The Wise are becoming more wise and more numerous, while the Stupid are unbelievably silly! And it is not immediately obvious who is in which camp: the mainstream cannot be relied on for information on this, since most mainstream is part of the camp of great darkness.

Some people are far closer to Source, to God, whatever, than others, to an extent that humanity can hardly be regarded as a single homogeneous species. I feel it is important to recognise differences, and we can do this without getting into abstractions about superiority and inferiority. The Valentinian Gnostics were an interesting bunch, worth checking out in my opinion, and had an interesting theory, in which they divided human beings into three types. The pneuma, who are close to God; the psychics, who form the mass of humanity, neither here nor there; and the hylic, who lack a soul, and experience a total disconnect with the divine. We don’t need to take this literally, but it is making apoint about how things actually are.

Where do you feel that this all leads you, and all of us, to?

A day does not pass without me feeling immense gratitude for the energy which has risen within me. I feel incredibly privileged, and continue to wonder at the magic and mystery of a universe that has seen fit to bestow such a gift upon the battered frame of my being. I hope that I have time left in this incarnation to do it justice.

There are especially precious moments when I experience pure consciousness. Then I also know that kundalini is consciousness and is love, awesome and earth-shattering love. It is a force which, almost desperately, wishes us to fulfil the potential of this life. To come close to Source, to that Pure Consciousness which creates all. Suddenly, paradoxes dissolve, and everything makes feeling-sense. Oneness and duality no longer form an opposition; the divine syzygy, as Jung puts it, sol y luna, the perfect masculine and feminine in ecstatic embrace, simultaneously find complete fulfilment and are totally obliterated. They reside in eternal unity and eternal separation.

I have no great and wonderful utopian vision for humanity or for life on Earth generally. I sometimes see it like a training ground for souls, and many humans don’t appear to be doing awfully well in the training. The Indo-Tibetan Tantrics see their path as a quick or short-cut to Enlightenment, and I feel that kundalini is very much like that. Suddenly our way along the sacred path is rocket- fuelled. For this we should give infinite thanks, and do whatever we need to do in fulfilling our unique connection with gnosis, with the divine.

 

[After this, I had some follow-up questions which Ian was generous in answering:]

 

Yes indeed – the follow-up questions! They have proved probably more tricky to answer than some of the original ones – which is not a bad thing. But it has taken me a while to consider them, and try to come up with something to say that does them justice.

I have summarised some of your questions, and have included a bit about the esoteric tradition, which you wrote to me about but without any specific question. So feel free to cut, paste, dissect, etc, as you wish. Any further questions etc, please get in touch. And if you wish to say anything about Gnostics etc in more personal correspondence, I am very happy to hear from you.

1. The western esoteric tradition

When I first became seriously engaged with matters of energy, consciousness, mind, and the rest in the 1970s, I could see no option but to look elsewhere for information and assistance. The unbroken traditions were oriental, especially Buddhist and Hindu; and there was shamanism Castaneda-style, which was fascinating but hardly trustworthy as a path. I was aware of the fragments in the west, but as I wrote at the time “There might be alchemists hiding out in the forests, but that isn’t much use to me at the moment.”

To be aware of our own traditions closer to home, culturally and sometimes geographically, assists in feeling ‘rooted’, not just living on borrowed and imported material. We are participating in a current of exploration, of gnosis. To use an overused and sometimes debased word, it is empowering. To give one little example. After the kundalini energy had appeared, I returned to one of my books with alchemical illustrations. Looking at some of them, my jaw dropped. “Yes, that’s it!” They were depicting the kundalini process in a way that Buddhist iconography, with its roots in a very different culture and mentality, could not speak to me. I had a distinct feeling of ‘coming home’.

2. Did you feel any similarity physically between what you felt with LSD and how the energies of kundalini drive physical chemistry?

The simple answer is: no. The contrary, if anything. LSD revealed the world to be pure consciousness, and what we experience as ‘physical’ as an interpretation of sensations felt moment-to-moment. In more recent times I also had some experience with ayahuasca and entheogenic cacti. Although more somatic than LSD, still they gave no clue as to the physical energetic aspect of kundalini.

When the energy first awoke, I was shocked. It was unlike anything I had experienced or anticipated. I had heard of kundalini, but it always seemed an anomaly, not fitting into any neat categories or systems. I once watched an interview with a woman whose kundalini had awoken, and she had more-or-less spent two years in bed as the only way to live with it! “I don’t like the look of that” had been my response. But when kundalini did appear in my body, I knew it was right, that it was good, that it was meant to be.

3. How does the energy ‘guide’ you?

Hmmmmm….. I have the feeling that, provided the energy is active and given its place, I can be confident in the direction that my life is taking. Even if I don’t ‘understand’ it immediately. If I trust in intuition, feeling, and direct knowing, I sense that my life is moving in accord with the intent of the energy (it seems to me that the energy possesses intent). It was a challenge to learn to develop such trust in the kundalini energy. Conventional modern western culture places its faith in reason, intellect, above all else, and I was not exempt from this scale of values. Letting go of ‘reason as king’ involved facing much personal anxiety and insecurity, the (futile) wish to be in control of my life, to understand every step of the way before taking that step. I feel that I have largely overcome this obstacle nowadays.

4. I ruminate over why the ‘female’ side of the body took our injuries. I think perhaps only she would be able to see the benefit of such a disaster, something maybe my ‘masculine’ side just wasn’t ready to embrace. Do you have any intuitions about this?

Not really, not beyond your own comments. I like the notion that it was being orchestrated for a purpose that I would never agree to! The feminine side might be more at home arranging such a disaster, and it seems to me that many female humans are more at ease with physical difficulties than males, who have the tendency to freak out about them. The masculine side may feel more threatened by the compromising effects of a hernia or shoulder injury, since it impedes the active, ‘doing’, progress-and-goal oriented nature of the masculine psychology. My hernia appeared at a time when masculine energy was in the ascendancy, surging and burning my lower abdomen. Maybe it was a cry of despair from the feminine, but I don’t really know.

 

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