Awakenings & Enlightenment: Spiritual Emergence & Kundalini Awakening

The Light of Consciousness

Kundalini Awakening

by Nancy Poitou

Spiritual awakening is having one or more spiritual experiences that result in the realization that one is an eternal soul currently housed in a temporary physical body with a temporary ego/personality. You realize you are an eternal soul, that you are a spiritual being has become a reality and once experienced  you cannot fall into denial. As identity is changed, values shift.  As a result of shifting values major life changes come about as a result. We have one awakening that is ongoing, the experiences, effects or symptoms may ebb and flow but you continue spiritual growth for the rest of your life. 

The term spiritual emergence or spiritual emergency was coined by Stanislav and Christina Grof and first written about in the anthology, “Spiritual Emergency.” Listed are 10 different categories of exceptional experiences that can occur during the awakening experiences one of which is called “Intense Energetic Phenomena - Kundalini, kriyas. Kundalini Awakening has a longer history going back to Hinduism. Is Kundalini activation responsible for all awakenings? Do only some experience energetic symptoms? Or is it just a category of experiences? I don’t have an answer to this. For the purposes of this article I will assume that spiritual emergence and Kundalini awakening are the same thing and perhaps Kundalini activation is the underlying cause of the other 9 categories of experiences. I will use the more generic term awakening and in this article and refer to Kundalini awakening when describing the energetic effects.

Kundalini awakening is identified with odd physical symptoms that can be scary if one is unaware of any type of awakening. Often people seek medical advice for the some odd symptoms for which there is no medical cause. Physical effects may be uncomfortable at times. For some with a history of abuse it may trigger old feelings having some outside force take control of their bodies. Kriyas are the seizure like movements that result from movement from the Kundalini this may include seizure like movements, twitching, heat moving up the spine, and in the palms of hands. There may be other things like your hands and arms doing things you did not intend that resemble mudra hand postures and movements. You can stop the movements but if you don’t pay attention the movements start up again. Some feel compelled to dance and move in ways that are unknown to them. Some people who have never done yoga in their lives wake up in a complex yoga asana. Myself and one other person I met through the Spiritual Emergence Network experienced temporary blindness lasting minutes as a result of Kundalini. For some the energetic strength of the Kundalini can be strong enough to blow out the edges of the aura or energy field. This leaves one open to being bombarded with and vulnerable to the energies of others’ thoughts and feelings.

Kundalini is the evolutionary power of consciousness in humans. The word means coiled snake or circular power. All of us have some of this power, but few awaken it and the amount depends on many factors. The seven main chakras are all also working but in most people only the first three are activated. The Kundalini lies coiled at the base of the spine. When it is activated it moves up the spine activating chakras as it does. It may just activate a few or go all the way up to the crown chakra. Over time and as mass consciousness evolves the chakras activate gradually in order. This happens much faster in cases where Kundalini was activated through spiritual practices such as and most commonly meditation. It can awaken our human potential in the higher mind and trigger abilities that lie dormant in our energy field and can activate dormant parts of the brain. A variety of experiences are had by people awakening and for whom the Kundalini has activated. Many are symptoms of the increased energy flow and activation of the upper chakras and pushing against blocks often resulting in kriyas. 

In the Hindu tradition Shiva or Pingala the masculine energy is always awakened, Shakti or Ida the feminine is what rises. Sometimes Kundalini is called Shakti rising. In the myth Kundalini or Shakti rises to meet her love Shiva at the crown chakra. Life doesn’t suddenly become easy due to awakening, a Buddhist saying is “before enlightenment I chopped wood and carried water, after enlightenment I chop wood and carry water.” One’s entire life is not changed by a Kundalini awakening, one’s outlook on life does change, but that doesn’t mean one is without struggle internally nor externally. And awakening is not the same as enlightenment.

Kundalini awakening involves mental/emotional and spiritual effects besides the energetic effects and your body doing stuff you did not intend. And then there are the mind bending spiritual experiences. The experiences and your reaction to them may depend on your previous spiritual or religious beliefs. What you believed before Kundalini began may induce fear, wonder, confusion, doubt, depending on if you were doing spiritual practices with knowledge of awakening symptoms as opposed to without the effort of spiritual practice and without knowledge or understanding of Kundalini awakening. Your identity may be completely transformed which is the point. A spiritual crisis may ensue.You may have a lot to process depending on the experiences you have. 

Often friends and family don’t believe you, think you are not sane or feel insecure about their own beliefs? They want to have the person they knew before back so that they will feel comfortable once again with not integrating their beliefs into their life. So there can be rejection on many levels. because few people know about Kundalini awakening even though it appears to be increasing in frequency. You may find you have little support. It can be a lonely time until you start attracting like minded others that share your spiritual world view and find your tribe. 

The awakened reject the values that most of our culture in the west has, which often causes relationship problems. Awakened people have a higher than average divorce rate because of it. The awakened might also lose friends who are religious, atheist or agnostic, not because they try to push their beliefs on others, they usually don’t, but wish to share their experiences with others because it is likely the biggest thing that has ever happened to them.

Some of the awakened dump toxic relationships and change jobs or careers in order to have deeper interactions and conversations. You may lose interest in things you previously spent time doing. Awakened people transform and approach life differently as they have a shift in values as that become much more important and spiritually oriented. Their life has changed and will never be the same again. They can’t look at life the same way they have in the past. They lose interest in superficial conversations and media. They desire deeper conversations. They may no longer be satisfied with their lives, careers or jobs. They feel different and may not feel comfortable within their marriage. They are often driven to be of service to others and toward learning, especially about spiritual matters. 

In short it changes everything in that the foundation of their lives has shifted and so it impacts every aspect of their lives. When the reality of awakening hits them they see a lot of spiritual and religious hypocrisy around them as people who say they have beliefs don’t really live them. But the awakened person can’t ignore this anymore and have a desire to be around others who see the world the same way as they now do. They may feel isolated for some time being around people they cannot talk to about this important change in their lives. It shakes up all their relationships. Some will adapt and accept them, some will feel too uncomfortable and leave and others will distance. It will take some time before they attract like minded people into their lives that they can talk to and have the same deeper interests and values that they now do.

Spiritual effects are the biggest in that there is a sudden expansion of consciousness. The awakening tend to become more spiritual, less religious and reject the dogma of religion. The experiences can be overwhelming at times. These are not tiny questionable experiences but the kind that knock you on your ass and send you into shock. Although faith is very important, these experiences make the reality of being a soul with a body hit home as opposed to how most see themselves as a body with a soul. Spiritually transformative or exceptional experiences had during an awakening may fall into one or more of these 10 categories. From the book Spiritual Emergency:

1. Dramatic death and/or rebirth sequences - Near Death Experience

2. Mythological & Archetypal phenomena - Jesus, angel Experiences, etc.

3. Karmic Pattern - Past Life Sequences

4. Psychological Renewal through a return to the center.

5. Psychic Opening: Incidences of Synchronicity, ESP

6. Intense Energetic Phenomena - Kundalini - Kriyas

7. States of Mystical Union and Cosmic Consciousness

8. Shamanic opening

9. Possession states - channeling, mediumship

10. UFO encounters

Each person’s awakening is different. However awakenings are not all the same in their result. There are 3 possible outcomes to Spiritual Awakening/Spiritual Emergence/Kundalini Awakening:

1. Enlightenment (extremely rare) - Complete transformation suddenly & permanently. This means that one can through study, spiritual practice, psychotherapy, could move up from 3 to 2 and possibly 2 to 1, enlightenment. However I suspect that there are 100 or less souls currently living that have reached enlightenment 

2. Transformation - The self and the personality become a more highly ordered form of consciousness integrated which results in ongoing transformation called by Rhea White a “project of transcendence”..

3. Self-Awareness - The Experience has brought to the surface what needs to be dealt with. May have had a glimpse of higher consciousness but is held back by personal issues, unresolved trauma, addictions or mental illness. This group is best served by working with a transpersonal oriented psychotherapist who see the entire spectrum of development. 

Awakening can become enlightenment but many people mistake awakening for enlightenment when they have actually reached #2 or 3 as a result. #3 shows the need to develop self awareness and resolve issues and trauma from their past. I recommend psychotherapy, journaling, learning emotional skills, like how to respond rather than react, understand your cognitive distortions, and develop emotional intelligence. You deal with it now or you deal with it later, in the spiritual scheme of things you will deal with it eventually. These undealt with issues slow progress and create blocks in the energy field resulting in an incomplete awakening in outcome #3.

In #2 The proof of any awakening is in the pudding so to speak. Evidence is not in what they say or what they experienced so much as in the changes that take place and how they live their lives. What do they do with it?  Do they walk their talk? This is the real transformation. People who go through an genuine awakening change in positive ways. This stuff would be difficult to fake. The biggest sign someone has had an awakening is that the experiences that awakened them lunge them forward in their individual evolution and contribute to the evolution of the whole of humanity. They lose the fear of death and are changed for the better, but often after awakening there is difficulty because of the ensuing life changes, affecting relationships, re-defining their beliefs and having their interests change. They are often driven toward work, or volunteering that will bring their lives meaning which means being of service. They seek deeper relationships and conversations, being uninterested in the superficial stuff, gossip and what is trending. Work or career changes can bring them into alignment with their core values which have shifted as a result of awakening. If already in a job or career that is a helping profession there is a new infusion of meaning to what they do because their heart is now in it. 

They tend to live a life of more congruence with their awareness of themselves as an eternal soul temporarily housed in a meat suit body with an ego/personality. Some experience oddly conflicting feelings. As a result of awakening people feel a sense of urgency and a pull to do something that will make a difference in the world. And yet at the same time people want to go hide out away from people in a cabin somewhere peaceful and meditate. 


I think of it as an ongoing awakening that began in 1985. The experiences were intense for the first two years.  It came about from releasing a lot of emotion from childhood and having repressed childhood memories come back. And it seemed as though I just kept going back in time into past lives, like an extension of the work I was already doing on myself. The awakening began with past life memories. I had had some pre-cognitive visions as well but had been passing them off to coincidence. I was in denial at first. But I think my past lives also set me up to awaken. If you were awakened in a past life it is quite likely you can be easily triggered to awaken again in the current life. I had done spiritual practices and gone through initiations in past lives. 

Read my article “The Awakening” for the description of how my awakening began with a past life memory. Here is one experience I had that oddly did not scare me. I suspect that is because I had awakened in past lives. But it should have scared me. I was at some friends house for dinner. and we were talking in the kitchen as they were making dinner. It began with me seeing a coppery shimmering energy around my ankles, beneath it was heat above it cool. It slowly began to move up my body. When it got midway all I could see were geometric shapes and colors. When it go up to my chest the heat was getting intense because the coppery shimmering brought the intense heat right up to my chest. I told them I needed some air and got up to go outside and get some cool air when apparently I nearly collapsed. My friend caught my arm and holding me up by my arm which was apparently was enough to keep me standing as my body went into seizure like kriyas for 10 minutes. I don’t recall that 10 minutes that felt like a minute to me. As I returned I was blind and yet saying “I’m OK, I’m OK” but I was not. He directed me to sit down but I couldn’t see so he helped me get to a chair. After a few minutes my sight returned. It felt like all the dross in my aura burned off. I felt lighter.

At the time I had never heard of such an experience but I sort of assumed it was part of the awakening I was still trying to accept was happening to me. I marvel at the fact that I should have been panicked at being blind for a few minutes but I oddly accepted it as normal. My ego was definitely not in charge that day and my Higher Self was so I surmise that is why I didn’t panic. I am also thankful and amazed my friends didn’t call 911. I’m not sure why because they didn’t know what was happening to me either and I wasn’t responding to them for the 10 minutes. I have helped other people through the process and told one fellow I talked to about that experience and the temporary blindness. In our next conversation he was thankful I had told him because he woke up one morning blind for a few minutes but didn’t panic because of what I had told him.

For me after 2 intense years and wild ride it began to fade and I began to integrate the experiences and the life changes accelerated. Now life is pretty normal except for the daily lights I see and the occasional experiences. My life and I have completely changed. Awakened your life changes from me to we. You become aware of the bigger picture once you are no longer in denial that you are not this meat suit you are temporarily housed in nor this ego you that is also a temporary you but you are an eternal soul. Your life seen from the soul level makes you and your ego desires and problems seem small and you become more aware of suffering in the world which I sought to ameliorate by working with the dying, cancer patients fighting the disease, mental health, trauma and healing and awakening and how I can help the rest of humanity evolve. I continue to have experiences just not as often. I continue to feel the heat of Kundalini up my back several times a day especially when I am in an altered state in meditation, falling asleep or waking up.

The impact was that I went from a career in graphic design and illustration to teaching metaphysics and meditation and having a healing practice, becoming a hospice volunteer, becoming a lecturer and speaker and taught the psycho-spiritual aspects of being a hospice volunteer and going back to school to become a psychotherapist and having a specialization in trauma, spiritual experiences, spiritual crises, Kundalini awakening and existential, religious and spiritual problems. I had a monthly meditation group for 14 years. I am retired at the end of 2020 and have written a book, You May Think I’m Crazy But . . . 12 of the Most Common Spiritual Experiences and Why You’re Not Crazy for which I am seeking a publisher or agent while writing my next book, Post Modern Metaphysics: The Unseen World of Energy and Consciousness.


Enlightenment is very difficult to observe and study because the enlightened do not say they are enlightened and they often self-isolate unless they teach. They may be found in a cave meditating. But if not completely isolated they will keep a very low profile. 

If someone claims to be enlightened you can be sure they are not. Anyone who is truly enlightened would not tell people that they are because they would have no need for the ego boost by telling people they are enlightened. They would not want the attention on them selves and would want to focus on the teachings and not themselves. Do people fake enlightenment? I suppose they could to the less informed who do not understand awakening or enlightenment. Someone faking it for money would likely be overly concerned with making money and would make outrageous claims. like they can erase your karma, something that cannot be validated and is impossible but highly desirable. Or that they can cure you of whatever ails you. A real healer would not make such a claim because they know not everyone is cured although many experience healing. But soon they would disappear as people found their claims to be false.

Enlightenment is very rare. I have a book called What is Enlightenment? in which a dozen scholars answer that question. So there seem to be many definitions. There are a lot of people who either think they are enlightened but are not or confuse awakening with enlightenment.

When Buddha was asked what are you? He replied “awake”. This relates to one definition I like which was never being unconscious even when the body sleeps. That would mean awake, even when the body sleeps, you would go about the astral plane or the earth plane in your astral body consciously and recall all of it even after your body wakes.

The author of "Kundalini and the Chakras A Practical Manual" defines enlightenment thus,  “In an enlightened state, all senses are heightened so much that they scarcely seem to be related to our ordinary senses. For instance, trees, flowers or rocks might appear radiant and velvety you will see their energy and feel their presence and their awareness of you. You will feel like you share a very deep connection. You will be able to see other people’s glowing, luminous higher energies, even when the darker human energies are prevalent in their force fields. You will be able to change focus, see into other dimensions, converse with the beings who live there. You will be able to see energies manifesting and know what they will become. You will also be able to see different frequencies of energy with their varied forms. You will have an understanding of the universal laws and how to operate within their framework. You will have insight into the various religions and how they have interpreted the laws. You will feel para-religious and para-philosophical, aware of all levels of truths. You will be filled with constant joy or bliss (although you may also have feelings of sadness or grief in particular situations). You will have genius level abilities and great artistic and creative abilities. You will have a deep sense of oneness with other humans, animals and all nature, a deep sense of connectedness with the Creator and the cosmos. You will have great powers and full understanding of how to use them. Some of the powers or gifts include: walking in the air or on water, levitation, ability to be invisible in a crowd, ability to generate enough body heat to melt a snowfield, command over the environment; healing, speaking in tongues, casting out devils; imperviousness to poisons; wise or inspired speech; heightened senses, such as clairvoyance, and future events; and the greatest power of all - love, all consuming, all forgiving, unconditional, LOVE.”


If you want to encourage awakening increase meditation, become vegetarian or vegan, even occasional fasting. If it is too much for you limit or stop all spiritual practices and eat denser foods like meat. Do grounding activities like exercise, gardening, etc. Learn all you can about the process, symptoms and experiences can help. Understanding how you can have some amount of control over the process and what it is doing to your energy field. A few people hate the awakening experience but I suspect they are in result #3 and have not had a complete experience and process. The process of integration of awakening is ongoing throughout life, however the initial integration usually takes about 7 years during which life changes will take place. I have never found in all my reading any way to stop it once it starts or reverse it. You can’t un have the experiences that change you, your identity, values, priorities.

There are some books that can be helpful. Spiritual Emergency, an anthology by Stanislav Grof, Energies of Transformation by Bonnie Greenwell and The Call of Spiritual Emergency by Emma Bragdon are a good start. There are many books about Kundalini and chakras that can be informative. I was fortunate to have met my teacher just after the experiences began.

Also having someone to talk to that is knowledgeable and will listen without pushing any agenda on the experiencer. If you need support and to talk to someone knowledgeable about what you are going through there are three organizations that can help.

1. ACISTE American Center for the Integration of Spiritually Transformative Experiences
Our mission is to address the integration needs and further the well-being of those who have had near-death or similar spiritually transformative experiences through research, education and support. Our vision is to create safe, readily accessible programs that facilitate experiencers on their paths to deeper understanding, greater clarity of purpose and greater sense of well-being while supporting them through their dramatic changes and integration phases. We set a high and ethical standard in the quality of research, education and support for near-death and similar spiritually transformative experiences. We are compassionate, supportive, respectful and welcoming of a diversity of experiences and interpretations. We strive to treat others as we would want to be treated ourselves. We serve experiencers who identify with the term “spiritually transformative experience” and/or who are dealing with any or all of the integration challenges and processes. 

2.Spiritual Emergence Network, SEN provides individuals that are experiencing psycho-spiritual difficulties a specialized mental health referral and support service. In a culture which has not understood issues surrounding spiritual development, the gift of being heard and understood by a knowledgeable and supportive listener can be life-altering. Our referrals are licensed and/or trained mental health care professionals who are preferably in your area (but many also work by phone or encrypted video) who have expertise with many specific psycho-spiritual issues. SEN offers its referral services and directory listings free of charge! Much of our transpersonal (psycho-spiritual) directory is online for self-referral. If you don’t find a self-referral that works for you, you can leave a message at 415-634-5736 . A volunteer will be in touch as soon as possible with other potential referrals and/or ideas for finding the help you need. This website is also a spiritual emergence resource guide. Look into our books and links sections in the index above. http://www.spiritualemergence....

3. IANDS, International Association of Near Death Studies is mostly focused on Near Death Experiences however they are expanding to includes all spiritually transformative experiences, see their website at
Founded in 1981, IANDS is a membership-based, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that promotes research, education, and support around near-death experiences and related experiences. Our mission is to advance a global understanding of these experiences. We envision a future in which all people embrace near-death and related experiences as sources of meaning and inspiration for a better world. IANDS’ purpose is to promote responsible, multi-disciplinary exploration of near-death and similar experiences, their effects on people’s lives, and their implications for beliefs about life, death, and human purpose. Where scholarship does not indicate a reasonably clear position on the origin or interpretation of these experiences, we remain impartial and open to the presentation of varying points of view; however, while all personal beliefs will be respected, IANDS is under no obligation to consider them all equally supportable. Whatever the viewpoint, IANDS never supports proselytizing.

Grof, Stanislav M.D. and Christina 1989 Spiritual Emergency Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc. Los Angeles, CA
Paulson, Genevieve Lewis. 1996 Kundalini and the Chakras A Practical Manual Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, MN