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Containing the Fire

In Tantra there is the central concept of Kundalini which is given a large amount of attention across a wide variety of literature. Kundalini is indeed a central feature in the spiritual sciences of Tantra. The idea that there is a sort of evolutionary force within us, propelling us into evolutionary action is epitomized in the concept of kundalini. This idea of "evolutionary force" must be understood to properly grok what our ancient people meant by kundalini. It can be easy to read about and intellectualize the esoteric definitions of these concepts but to have an embodied feeling-sense of the words is what leads us towards effective application and integration. And being able to effectively apply kundalini is perhaps the single most important action we can take to make progress spiritually. Allow us to look at why this might be as I un-pack the concept of kundalini here in this essay.

I'll start by bringing awareness to the fact that there is something in us that is not the ego. The ego, or our sense of "I", is a conglomeration of ideas, beliefs, memories and other experiences that congeal together to make a centralized sense of "I". The ego is responsible for the solidifying the subject of our life-experience, and being a reference point for all that happens. Everything we do must be in relationship to this "I", no? The ego attempts to preserve and ensure that our life continues on a relatively stable timeline where all of our needs are met and that we get the things we want and avoid the things we don't want. However, in mystic traditions such as Yoga or Tantra, this "I" -- while it behaves as if it is -- is actually not the center of the human psyche. According to the metaphysics that underlie Yoga & Tantra, there are more refined levels of consciousness than the human ego, and these levels are more "centralized" in our experience, we just don't notice them. This idea that there is a center other than the ego is confirmed in the psychoanalytic theories of Carl Jung and his successor, Edward Edinger. Understanding this, that there is a Center beyond what the ego perceives as its center, is the key to spiritual development, because the movement from the perceived center (as an ego) TOWARDS the Greater Center is THE movement of evolutionary energy.

When the ego confronts or makes the movement towards the Greater Center, it is necessarily humbled. The Center (capital C) is seen as the Source for all inspiration, all creativity, and all life-giving energy. This Center is described in Carl Jung's work as the Archetypal Self; it is the place where exists all the blueprints necessary for the ego to live its life with the greatest amount of alignment and harmony. The way someone might understand this is that there is a force in us that has been evolving for a lot longer than the human ego. This force is connected to the forces of Nature that are also in us. To connect to this energy supply is to plug into the eternal life-force. When this life-force is flowing through us, it is not personal -- it just wants to do what life wants it to do. This force has a supreme intelligence to it -- it knows. The ego and human rationality can try to justify, but the life-force, when it is flowing, is unquestionable. This is what happens when the ego begins to open to the Greater Center, or to build a relationship to the "center-beyond-the-I". This is what tribal cultures were always trying to do -- to build a real relationship to Spirit and to the forces of Nature all around us... because they KNEW that this was where all the energy came from to move life forward in a positive direction.

Intuitively we know this. There comes a time in our life where we must admit to ourselves that our ego cannot take us any further. Even if our ego is super powerful, there comes a time when its inflation is punctured... and we are left questioning. If we can remain in the space of questioning, we start to search for the Center outside the center. The word ecstasy actually means this -- "ek-stasis", to stand outside oneself. To realize that the personality is NOT the center of the Universe is both humbling and liberating. This frees us from the notion that we need to do it alone. It allows us to open up to a mystical and spiritual dimension of life, and ultimately plug into a massive reservoir where thousands, millions of volts of energy are flowing constantly. The ego needs to build a regulated relationship to this place in order for life to become truly satisfying. It must admit that it is not the only center, and to begin the humbling mission of being in right relationship with the other Center in us -- the life-giving, nurturing, intelligent Center.

Containing the Fire of life -- the incredible force of nature that is flowing through our veins all of the time -- this is the job we are tasked with. If we fail to do this effectively, this force pushes itself out in distorted ways. We've got to unkink the hose or leaks happen, which means we end up watering parts of life that we would be better off not watering. Build the vessel and strengthen it. Strengthen the relationship between the Ego and the Center. Channel the energy of life through you. This is an awakened Kundalini, and all the tools of Yoga and Tantra are here to help us with this task.

Hari Om,


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