Meditation and Kundalini Awakening, Part Two

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December 28, 2010

Meditation and Kundalini Awakening, Part Two

Sally Kempton December 28, 2010

Tami Simon speaks with Sally Kempton, a meditation teacher who has immersed herself in the world of meditation for over four decades and has earned a reputation as a highly experienced, gifted, and insightful meditation teacher. Sounds True will be releasing Sally Kempton’s new book Meditation for the Love of It, and the audio program Beginning Meditation. In the second part of this two-part episode, Sally discusses “having a love affair” with meditation, what it means for meditation to be one’s beloved, and kundalini awakening. (48 minutes)

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Sally Kempton has been studying and teaching the wisdom of yoga for 40 years. A highly regarded teacher of meditation and spiritual philosophy, she writes the popular Yoga Journal column “Wisdom.” Known for her gift of making yogic wisdom relevant to daily life and for transmitting deep states of meditation, she teaches retreats and teleclasses internationally. Sally is the author of Meditation for the Love of It (Sounds True, 2011). She resides in Carmel Valley, California.

Author photo © Cynthia Johnson-Bianchetta


Listen to Tami Simon's interview with Sally Kempton: Invoking the Goddesses of Yoga

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Founded Sounds True in 1985 as a multimedia publishing house with a mission to disseminate spiritual wisdom. She hosts a popular weekly podcast called Insights at the Edge, where she has interviewed many of today's leading teachers. Tami lives with her wife, Julie M. Kramer, and their two spoodles, Rasberry and Bula, in Boulder, Colorado.

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Embodied Awakening Practices in the Vijnana Bhairava

So often, we compartmentalize our lives, with the spiritual stuff over here and everything else over here.  The more I’ve noted this tendency in myself, the more I’ve tried to bring the same open awareness to tasks such as shopping, work, and doing the dishes that I bring to reading sacred texts and meditation.

I’m always on the lookout for teachings that understand the essential unity of all existence, whether it manifests as the transcendent or the banal. When I first read a translation of the Vijnana Bhairava—one of the key texts of non-dual Kashmir Shaivism, the tradition from which Indian Buddhist Tantra evolved—I was delighted to find that its 112 dharanas, or practices, ranged from the subtle and obscure to the sensuous and embodied.   In other words, its techniques for meditative awareness encompassed all of life.

Earlier this summer, I had the pleasure of working with one of my favorite Sounds True authors, Sally Kempton, to record a new program called Doorways to the Infinite: The Art and Practice of Tantric Meditation.  In this program, to be released next spring, Sally explores the practices of the Vijnana Bhairaiva, unpacking the deeper meanings of the dharanas and offering guided meditation practices that evoke their unique flavors.

Each of the Vijnana Bhairava’s verses—which are presented as a conversation between the  supreme lord Shiva and his consort Parvati—offers a doorway to expanded consciousness.  Some are concerned with the space between breaths, the ascent of kundalini, and mantra practice—familiar subjects for spiritual practitioners.  Other dharanas focus on the taste of food, on touch, on sexual ecstasy.

Still others point toward immediate realization of the Self as pure consciousness.

These dharanas prove that the ancients knew what we are rediscovering today—that spirituality is not something apart from all the other aspects of our lives.  In Tantric teachings, the human body is a mirror of the cosmic body.  When we have a felt sense of this unity of body and spirit, there’s no more gap between our spiritual lives and our ordinary lives.  All life is spirit, and everything is our path to awakening.

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Invoking the Goddesses of Yoga

Tami Simon speaks with Sally Kempton, a teacher who has practiced, studied, and written about meditation and spiritual philosophy for more than 40 years. With Sounds True, Sally has authored Meditation for the Love of It and the recently released book Awakening Shakti: The Transformative Power of the Goddesses of Yoga. In this episode, Tami speaks with Sally about how we can seek guidance and blessing from a goddess, the role of imagination in invoking goddess energy, the light and shadow sides of each goddess, and the relationship between goddess energy and the awakening of Kundalini in the human experience. (69 minutes)

Meditation and Kundalini Awakening, Part Two

Tami Simon speaks with Sally Kempton, a meditation teacher who has immersed herself in the world of meditation for over four decades and has earned a reputation as a highly experienced, gifted, and insightful meditation teacher. Sounds True will be releasing Sally Kempton’s new book Meditation for the Love of It, and the audio program Beginning Meditation. In the second part of this two-part episode, Sally discusses “having a love affair” with meditation, what it means for meditation to be one’s beloved, and kundalini awakening. (48 minutes)

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At the Peak of the Pain

A doctor of Chinese medicine who was a famous bonesetter in China once said to me with a heavy accent, “Here, you [meaning Americans] don’t like to feel pain. You don’t like to suffer.” He said this as he wrung my neck as one would a chicken’s, snapping it back and forth in a way I had never experienced. I screamed as if he were breaking my bones.

For a month prior, I hadn’t been able to move my head to the left or right. My left arm was nearly immobile. I had just started a new job that probably should have ended the moment my body locked up. I went for acupuncture, then pain pills; used ice and hot water bottles. I went to medical doctors, and they X-rayed the area and gave me more pills and a brace to keep my head still—the kind used for whiplash. I later tried one of the best chiropractors in the city, and she gave me the number of a neurosurgeon, thinking I had a herniated disk and would need surgery. I did not seek out the surgeon and stayed in pain for weeks. Finally, a friend from my job gave me the number of her doctor, the famous bonesetter mentioned above. I called him at 10:00 pm that night. That’s how much pain I was in. To my surprise, he answered the phone. He said, “Come in. I wait for you.”

I said, “Now?”

“Yes!” he said. “You have pain, come now.”

Wow, I thought. Now that’s a healer. It didn’t matter that it was the middle of the night.

My partner at the time drove me across the Bay Bridge to San Francisco, and I met my friend from work at the healer’s office. She had come to translate from Mandarin to English. The place was tiny, with photos on the wall of city dignitaries and other famous people who were his clients.

“Hi.” The bonesetter smiled like a boy. “I’m Dr. Fu.”

I sat down in his small room and showed him my X-ray. He threw it on the floor without looking at it. He took the brace off my neck and threw that on the floor, too, right next to the X-ray. Then he twisted me into a pretzel. I howled, yelped, screamed, and hollered.

All of it. No wonder he had me come when no other patients were there. He told me to breathe, and I did my best. Suddenly, at the peak of the pain, I felt my muscles release in my neck, shoulders, and back. It was in fact a miracle to me. I had suffered so long.

I carried my brace and X-ray out in my hands. It was as if I had never been in pain or unable to move. The night sky filled with stars made me feel like I was on another planet. I was in bliss. When I returned to work, everyone was shocked. Was it a miracle, or was it the ability to withstand a greater amount pain to be free of the pain? I would have never imagined that I needed to go deeper into the pain, deeper into the darkness of it. All I had wanted was out.

We are averse to pain and suffering and understandably so, given our American sensibility. We have access to a large market of remedies, products, spiritual paths, and, yes, gateways to the freedom from suffering. I wonder how many times we have diverted our own freedom when we have discovered there is more pain, more trouble, more darkness ahead and we keep adding on remedies. What is the mindset, along with fear and terror, that causes us to avoid our suffering rather than go deeper into seeing what is there? Yes, I should have quit that job on the spot when the pain started, even though I had been there for only a few weeks. I didn’t know at the time, but the pain that was deep inside was because I wanted something different for my life than the job I had accepted. The pain was my impatience, and it was at the same time physical pain in real time. I didn’t wait to allow that“something different” to be revealed in the darkness.

Since all paths—religious, spiritual, or without name—intersect in the place of darkness, darkness is the place where the mind is forced to detach itself from whatever it has grabbed onto in life. And in that nothingness, in that dark place, we awaken.

What of darkness terrorizes us so that we run from it, rather than go deeper into it? How can we bear dark times, or, more explicitly, horrifying times, with the skill of an awakened one? Misery, struggle, and sorrow are not the sole intentions of this life. Yet we can respect our interrelationship with everything in the world, including the suffering in, around, and between us. Is there a way to live in unsettling times that we have forgotten?

Excerpted from Opening to Darkness: Eight Gateways for Being with the Absence of Light in Unsettling Times by Zenju Earthlyn Manuel.

Osho Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, PhD, is an author, poet, ordained Zen Buddhist priest, teacher, and artist, whose diverse background, education, and experience all provide a unique integral and cultural perspective within the space of religion and spirituality. She is the author of The Shamanic Bones of Zen, The Way of Tenderness, The Deepest Peace, and more. Manuel is a native of California and now resides in New Mexico. Learn more at zenju.org.

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