A Spiritual Odyssey


After many years of dealing with unusual sensations in my leg and head (a whooshing tingling feeling like a tornado touching down in my right ear or around the top of my head, which comes usually in the middle of a sleepless night when I'm feeling overly warm), I discovered the material on kundalini from your website as well as from a book by Philip St. Romain on Kundalini and Christian Spirituality. I'm specifically wondering about sensations of tingling, bubbling and twitching that has been mainly in my left leg, which began around 1984 during a time in which I was "praying" for a man with skin cancer on his leg. I felt an energy go out from me to him (he didn't know I was doing this), but later (and it's probably just my imagination), I felt a tight gripping feeling enter my leg, followed by months of on again off again symptoms described above. They seemed especially strong when in church (I was attending Self Realization Fellowship at the time). It scared me, and I thought it was some evil force so I tried to expel it from my body, but the more I focused on it the worse it became. In recent years, I haven't given it much thought and it hasn't returned often, but if I "think" about it it always comes back, to a lesser extent than at first. Might this be kundalini? If so, why is it always in the left foot and leg? Should I try to bring it up to the spine? Or is it better to ignore it?

While I was raised with Christian Science and Theosophy from parents of these two religions, I only began to desire the spiritual life in high school with an increasing interest in meditation and nature experiences. In college I studied Eastern Religions, but without much discipline--just a lot of "oneness" experiences in nature and with music. One night in 1982, overlooking the Big Sur coast while in the hot springs at Esalen Institute, I had a "cosmic" experience of Oneness with God and all Creation, tears flowing freely for the first time in perfect joy at God's plan for me and the universe! That one night, with waves of ecstasy sweeping through me and my heart exploding with Joy, really set me on the spiritual quest.

The exact sequence eludes me, but from my journal entries it seems that the very next night I had an incredible experience that now seems like it must have been Kundalini. I was trying to sleep in a van at Big Sur, and in the midst of a dream where I was feeling empathy for a friend who I felt wanted to be alone to "find himself", I suddenly felt an electrical surge through my whole being, maybe coming down from the head but I'm not sure. It was kind of like molten lava flowing through me, with reddish colors, and a whooshing sound in my head like a lawn sprinkler or electrical discharge. I didn't know what to make of it, and it was gone in about 15 seconds. Perhaps, I thought, that this was some kind of new reality that I was meant to discover to bring it back to mankind. Presumptuous as this might seem, I was convinced that this was something that maybe no one on earth had ever felt before. Anyway, it returned again several months later, and then as I centered on the sound of the whoosh and the electrical tingles which seemed to flow through me or down from the top of my head, it began to come more and more frequently--often accompanied by weird hallucinations or out of body type experiences (I sometimes felt like I was in a wind tunnel and my (astral?) body was flapping up like a kite in the breeze). After a year or more of this, I became more and more interested in spirituality beyond mere phenomena, and started reading works such as Autobiography of a Yogi and Thomas Merton's New Seeds of Contemplation. I began to yearn for God in my heart, and began to feel an increasing sweetness of a personal relationship with a loving Source I called God. About this time, I got appendicitis and when recovering, I was overwhelmed by waves of love coursing through my being for hours on end for several entire nights in a row. Soon after this, I met a girl into Self Realization Fellowship who, through my relationship with her, introduced me more to God and, for better or worse, organized religion.

For the next several years following, I was seeking through many different groups for answers, while still finding the secret communion with God in nature and music, and in a certain lifting up of my heart and consciousness to that great Something I called God—the source of many sensible consolations from this "unknown God". I found much to ponder from religions and spiritual teachers, however, and slowly began to go to organized religious services.

Through the Eighties, I read widely, while having occasional experiences of the "buzz" or "whoosh" in my head. Increasingly drawn toward devotional worship, I became a Charismatic Christian in the late eighties, and had come to feel that the electrical "head buzz" was negative, and of course because of the evangelical environment I was in, even wondered if it was demonic. When it came in the middle of the night, often during a dream or in the inbetween state between waking and dreaming, I found that I could make it disappear by attempting to move my jaw. In this "vibrational state", I was physically paralyzed, but totally conscious (even if it took place in a dream state I was totally conscious of the occurrence of this "third state"). If I could move my jaw (and this took utmost effort), the electrical whoosh would diminish and go away. On the other hand, if I "got into it", the whoosh would get louder and feel more all-engulfing, and if it came as vibrations (like the beat frequencies of a lawn sprinkler), the vibrations got quicker and quicker until it became like a virtual "humm". Often I felt it in my right ear and it was deafening, but sometimes it was like a vortex which at will I could make travel around my skull. If I let this vortex move down my face (in experimentation), it would diminish---If I guided it to my crown it would get very strong, and when guided to my right ear it was deafening.

Although I never associated the two experiences, there were occasional times, usually lasting only a few days, when I felt tightness, bubbling, tingling or twitching in my left foot and leg, but by this time I had learned to ignore it or simply "smile" at it so as not "to give it any power".

Religiously through the eighties and early nineties, I wavered between born-again Christianity, Yogananda's SRF, Christian Science, Vedanta, and Krishnamurti. Having been raised in two very different alternative movements (Christian Science and Theosophy), this is perhaps understandable. I just felt Truth was somehow beyond all of this, yet yearned for some kind of validation and fellowship. Unfortunately, much of my activity in the religious sphere at this time was mental, reading a lot of writings, and finding nature a real solace. After a failed relationship with a Vietnamese Zen woman, in the darkness of desperation I returned to born-again Christianity, but this time stumbled upon a group of "super Charismatics", part of a movement from Toronto, which was part of a renewal in which under the Holy Spirit's influence people would tremble, shake, fall, and make what were humorously termed "animal manifestations"--little yelps or groaning noises. Church began to feel like something between a Love-In and a barnyard, with hundreds of people jerking, rolling around etc. What captivated me to the movement was the rapture of spiritual ecstasy which was evident on many of the participants' countenances. I saw little girls and even babies in utter rapture, and felt the same was as the Fire or Rain of God was flooding the building with power and love. Under this "heaviness" of the Spirit, I literally could no longer stand up, and started to tremble and shake and literally feel "drunk in the Spirit". Nothing was mimicked or made up--it seemed like a sovereign work of God to ravish us. Not long after, I (along with many others in the churches experiencing this "Toronto blessing") began to get jerking muscles in the abdomen (they called it "cruches" where the body and head would go down like a chicken walking, which they attributed to "birth pangs" in the Spirit). All I know is that it was real to me and I felt God's joy and power like never before.

Unfortunately, all this didn't last. The movement became self conscious, with newcomers "fueling the fires" but the old timers, including myself, slipping into mimicry to try to reproduce in our bodies what had initially been a beautiful working of God. I had moved across the street from the Pentecostal church, which was having renewal meetings 4 times a week, and played in several worship bands, but inside I slowly became dry as a bone and ultimately became sick of just trying to "put on a show" so that we could convince ourselves that we were still "in the Spirit". I felt increasingly drawn to silence, and would even leave church after I played my set with the band (during the sermons) because the words no longer seemed to mean much to me. It all seemed like a bunch of hype to me after 2 years of late nights, 4 nights a week, trying to "get in the Spirit".

It was at this dark night point in my spirit that I stumbled upon a monk's hermitage in Big Sur...

I no longer felt anything from the long sermons, and even the music from the rock 'n' roll worship band that I was playing flute in often seemed like so much noise. It was in the midst of this environment that I discovered the writings put out by the Seedsowers Publishing House, which has republished--for a Protestant, largely Baptist audience--the writings of "quietists" Madame Guyon, Fenelon, Michael Molinos, as well as the writings on oneness with Jesus and His Father by the radical "house church" advocate Gene Edwards. I shared this material with some friends from the church, and we decided to meet with some "Gene Edwards fans" at the Limekiln Campground in Big Sur. One of our group happened to spy a cross on the side of the highway a couple of miles from the campground, and from it a road leading up to the New Camaldoli Hermitage, where we all fell in love with the peaceful joyful aura that hung around the place and the monks there. It all seemed so much deeper than the "three ring circus" that the church I was at had become! There were a number of "coincidences" in my life at that point which seemed to point me in that direction, so I became a Camaldolese Oblate and started reading many books on the contemplative life, and especially Centering Prayer which greatly helped me to learn the skill to release my soul from all of the mental attachments (both spiritual and worldly) which had meant so much to me before. When I was told that the only way to remain in the worship band was to be tithing 10% of my gross income to their church, I knew that God was telling me to move on.

Over the next two years I became more regular in my practice of Centering Prayer, discovered the joys of lectio divina, and spent more time in nature trying to sort out my direction. At this point, friend came into my life (a girl) who I became increasingly fond of as a hiking and church companion, and before long we were married! It was not easy for someone who had rarely had girlfriends, was an only child, and had never been married for 36 years, but it was meant to be. The same week we were married (December 1998) we bought a house (fixer-upper), and so a whole new set of priorities entered my life. My wife and I love to go hiking and worship God in silence, but between the house, our full-time jobs, and her school it has been more difficult finding the discipline for regular prayer, but we both know we need it. God needs to be our first priority, and we're trying to reserve some quiet time to be in the silence with God each day.

Although we still feel our first commitment must be a devotion to Christ's spirit as manifest in our hearts and lives, we both don't really feel at home at any organized church these days. We really don't have any ties any more to a spiritual community, although we seem to have found many kindred spirits at a nearby Vedanta ashrama (Ananda Ashrama in La Crescenta, CA) as well as the Self Realization Fellowship (who follow Paramahansa Yogananda as a guru but in their services devote time to quiet meditation, and place much devotional reverence on Christ.

So unfortunately I'm not really "grounded" in a fellowship group; however my wife and I do try to spend time each morning in quietness and a few spiritual readings. My wife is on an evening shift at a hectic medical center right now, so can't join me at the centering prayer groups, but I try to attend those weekly to encourage myself in regular practice of centering prayer. Probably because of the cares of the world in my life right now, I haven't given as much time to prayer as I know I should--but I'm finding encouragement from the groups I attend. Over the past several years, I have rarely experienced the kundalini phenomenon, probably for the same reason. Years ago when I became an active Christian I was counseled to avoid all psychic phenomena, and began to fear the "head whoosh" and "leg tingles" as distractions at best and demonic at worst. The "head whoosh" was never unpleasant to me, but when I became active in charismatic worship it seemed to go away and only return several times a year (usually in the middle of the night when in a dreamlike state). The leg feelings were always unpleasant, and early on I discovered that the best way to deal with it was to let it go. So that rarely returns, except when I think about it at which point it seems to immediately come back, until I let that go too (like letting go of thoughts in centering prayer!).

I've gone down more than a few rabbit holes and dead ends in my search. God always seems to be calling me back to the heart, where faith and love reside, and I know all too well the dryness in my spirit that comes through going after mere experiences. A lot of what I've explored through the years is more intellectual curiosity, as well as an attempt at a universalistic understanding of how the world's spiritual beliefs all tie in. Growing up with a Christian Scientist father and a Theosophist mother, and growing up among Jews, Christians, and various stripes of New Agers undoubtedly has something to do with my internal quest for synthesis!

Over the past few years, especially after discovering the contemplative life, I've tended towards simplification, with my heart feeling in the right place on long walks with my wife in nature, and in quiet meditation. I still have some internal conflict between a more active devotional/bhakti approach to God, and the apophatic approach with letting go of thoughts as in centering prayer and Zen. Some days, especially after long stressful weeks in the library, I feel a need to simply let go of everything, including images of God, and at other times I tend toward a more devotional way with God. I feel I need to seek the answers to where my path must lead inside my heart, and not always be trying to find the answers "out there" in books and sermons, where well-intentioned people desire to share their ways, yet it may not be right for me at this time in my life. In other words, I need to let the Spirit lead!

Dana Eklund