Branded by the Spirit

Chapter 5


I receive! I have been received! I hear the flowers drinking in their light... -- Theodore Roethke

Increased psychic sensitivity is a common feature of spiritual emergence. This expansion in awareness may occur gradually or it may dramatically mushroom out of the blue. For those who have little psychic experience, extrasensory perception might sound like a terrific and inviting magical power. But when we are suddenly and unexpectedly psychically sensitized, it can produce a bewildering information overload. The loss of personal boundaries that occurs with psychic opening can be formidable. When the overload causes confusion and impedes our ability to carry out the ordinary tasks of daily life, it can become a real problem.

All extrasensory abilities, including the renowned "siddhis", or spiritual powers of the yogis, are the result of awakened Chakras. The Chakras and Kundalini are really inseparable; when the Kundalini rises, the Chakras begin to open up. If the Kundalini has not been activated, it is not possible to awaken all the Chakras.

Spiritual practices such as meditation and certain metaphysical techniques can begin to awaken the Chakras, but they can also be pierced through sharp physical blows to these areas. Natural clairvoyants and psychics frequently have childhood histories of such injuries, particularly to the head or the spine. Strong electrical shocks to the body also powerfully stimulate the Chakras. It would seem that some of us have undergone spiritually purposeful trauma, when forces in the environment have acted as the Zen master with the proverbial stick, literally clobbering us into awakening.

The Chakras

"Kundalini and the Chakras are the means through which the soul-powers function within the physical, the astral, the etheric, the mental and the spiritual worlds." -- Ann Ree Colton

I awoke in the middle of the night to see beautiful, radiantly colored mandalas spinning over my Chakras. Months later, talking to a friend who was five years into the throes of a Kundalini awakening, she remarked that she was seeing "colored pinwheels" over her body. Another woman whose heart chakra was opening told me she felt something rotating in her chest. Irina Tweedie said she heard her heart chakra whirling "round and round at a terrific speed" during her own spiritual transformation. According to Charles Breaux, the Chakras appear to clairvoyants "as whirlpools of energy funneling into the etheric body."

Chakra (which means, literally, "wheel") is the Sanskrit word for an energy center in the subtle body. These energy vortexes are related to the endocrine glands and major nerve ganglia in the physical body. From my direct experiences combined with my research on this, I understand the Chakras to be interdimensional and complex gates to perception. When energetically mature, these gates allow the mind access to expansive knowledge and cosmic/mystical information.

In yogic lore, there are seven major and 43 minor Chakras in the human system. All the Chakras are said to revolve, but the rate at which they spin is proportionate to the amount of energy in the system. Teachers like Gabriel Cousens and Yogananda believe that what the early Christians called the "seven churches" were, in fact, the Chakras, as were the "seven seals on the back of the Book of Life" referred to in the Bible. (Quite a few mystics from various traditions believe that the entire Biblical account of Revelations is describing St. John's Kundalini awakening.)

Ancient cultures were aware of these etheric energy centers in the body, although they differ in the number which they believed were of most importance. The Hopi Indian tradition designates five energy centers in the body; the Huichol Indians of Mexico speak of energy fields, which radiate from various areas of the body; and the Cuna Indians believe that eight "spirits" inhabit the body in the chakra locations.

In Zen, as well as in most martial arts, the only chakra emphasized is the second, which the Japanese call the hara. In Vajrayana Buddhism and Sufi teachings, the third, fourth and six Chakras are considered most significant. From this, says Walt Anderson, comes "the Islamic gesture of touching the hand to the head, heart, and stomach and then extending it outward."

The Chakras rarely just spring open and stay that way. As with the Kundalini, the awakening or "piercing" of the Chakras is a long developmental process, accompanied by myriad bodily sensations and changes in consciousness. "Each chakra represents an obstacle that must be surmounted," says Darrel Irving: "As the Chakras are penetrated by the Kundalini energy, transfiguration occurs, for each chakra is governed by its own dynamic, where various emotions, both pleasurable and unpleasurable, are encountered, where illusions are stripped of their facades, where emotional knots are untied, and where understanding is increased."

At different stages of our transformation, we may feel particular Chakras being "worked upon" or spontaneously opening. Intense heat may be felt in any of the Chakras when they are beginning to awaken; there may also be tenderness, swelling, or unusual sensations in these areas. Sometimes more than one chakra is being cleared during the same period. (Often, the 6th and 3rd, and the 7th and 4th, open as pairs.)

The movement of the Kundalini isn't like baseball; it doesn't have to touch all the bases to reach home with a fireworks explosion. The Chakras may awaken in any order. A man once questioned me about this, "I don't understand how a higher chakra could open before the lower Chakras are pierced. Does the Kundalini skip around them in some way?"

In yogic texts and Western exercises for awakening or cleansing the Chakras, they are generally dealt with in an ascending order, from the base up to the crown. When Kundalini opens the Chakras naturally, she is rarely this methodical. I cannot explain how this is done any more than physicists can tell us how it is that light manifests as both particle and wave. The Spirit operates mysteriously.

My Chakras began to undergo dramatic changes during the intense early phase of my process, when I was in an altered state for several months. Sometimes my hand would automatically touch my 4th chakra (at the center of my chest), then transfer the energy to my 3rd and 6th Chakras. I would feel a powerful zap of energy in my forehead (6th) or solar plexus (3rd) when this happened. In partial awakenings, only the lower Chakras may be affected; the Kundalini may then subside. In complete awakenings, the upper four Chakras are also involved.

The Hindu literature designates the seven major Chakras as:

(1) Muladhara (1st or root chakra), located at the base of the spine (this is the earth element)

(2) Svadhishthana (2nd chakra), located in the lower abdomen (this is the water element)

(3) Manipura (3rd chakra), located at the solar plexus (this is the fire element)

(4) Anahata (4th or heart chakra), located at the center of the chest (this is the air element)

(5) Vishuddha (5th or throat chakra), located at the base of the throat (this is the ether or subtle energy element)

(6) Ajna (6th or Third Eye chakra), located in the center of the forehead at the pineal gland (this is the level of mind) (7) Sahasrara (7th or crown chakra), located at the top of the skull (this is the meeting place of manifest/yin and formless/yang divine forces)

Each chakra governs a particular level of consciousness. Darrel Irving suggests the analogy of "the chakra at the base of the spine as an electric generator and the other Chakras as light bulbs varying in wattage from 40 watts at the bottom to 1000 watts at the top." When "the switch is thrown" through the arousal of Kundalini, "electricity flows from the generator to one or more of the bulbs, or Chakras, lighting them."

The 1st through 3rd Chakras regulate awareness that is essential to ordinary functioning in the mundane world. Above the 3rd, the Chakras open us to increasingly rarefied states of being and extrasensory perception. This is sometimes misconstrued to mean that these lower Chakras are less valuable than the upper ones. This is like declaring our legs to be less important than our eyes. Different consciousness levels serve different functions, but as Christiane Northrup has stated, none are extraneous to our well-being: "We cannot hope to improve our health or the circumstances of our lives if we think of our body's lower centers as 'less worthy' or 'beneath our dignity.' "

The distinction of upper and lower relate not so much to hierarchy and value as they do to density and vibrational rates, and to broader or narrower ranges of perception. The many teachings about the Chakras differentiate between active and awakened Chakras. Active Chakras are those in which energy regularly or habitually congregates. Everyone has activity in their Chakras, and each individual characteristically "carries" more energy in certain Chakras than others. A very sensually oriented, hedonistic type would have a strongly active 2nd chakra, while a highly ambitious, competitive personality would be very active in the 3rd chakra. Intellectuals have strongly activated 6th Chakras.

Fundamentally, the consciousness levels of the seven Chakras are as follows:

1st chakra: NEEDS Physical survival -- concerned with finding food, shelter, safety, etc.

This is the level of bodily consciousness. It involves all our issues of physical and material security.

When the 1st, or root chakra, is in the process of awakening, there may be strange sensations at the base of the spine. Itching, tingling, or much stronger vibrations, including thumping, may be felt in the tailbone. When the 1st chakra opens, Shakti (perceived as "fire," light or momentous energy) may shoot up the spine in a spectacular fashion. This may cause a great deal of pain in the spine, or intense, orgasmic sensations in the entire body.

2nd chakra: DESIRES Seeking pleasure and avoidance of pain

Sexuality in its instinctual sense is located at this level. This is also the level of emotions. All energy exchanges in the form of relationships, social interactions and financial concerns affect this chakra area.

The 2nd chakra awakening may produce powerful sexual feelings. Great surges of negative emotion, such as hatred, possessiveness or envy, may be triggered at this level. Mystical identification with wild animals (wolves, bears, lions, etc.), may occur when this chakra is pierced. When my 2nd chakra was pierced, I had spontaneous orgasms, which was a pleasant surprise. I also had a brief episode in which I felt that I was taking on the instincts and physical gestalt of a huge tiger. This was an overwhelming and very frightening experience.

3rd chakra: POWER Personal power -- ego-strength, assertiveness, self vs. other

This is the level of the will. It is the center for personal choice and the "gut-instinct" kind of intuition that helps us appraise daily life situations. When the 3rd chakra at the solar plexus opens, there can be tremendous emotional upheaval. Lots of painful unconscious material can erupt. Vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea and other digestive troubles can accompany this opening. Telepathy, clairvoyance, clairsentience and awareness of astral entities may emerge with an awakened 3rd chakra. The solar plexus is a sort of radar system, which registers whatever is occurring on the mental, emotional and physical planes, both internally and externally. The newly awakened 3rd chakra usually makes us emotionally and psychically hypersensitive. As Arundale says, one can become "a kind of sensitive plate upon which, for example, people in the outer world imprint themselves," such that one can know in a flash "their natures." There were periods in my awakening when I could read into other people's souls; I could sense their darkest secrets and deepest pain without them saying a word.

4th chakra: UNION Relationships; shared experience; cherishing that beyond the self

This is the level of compassion. When the 4th or heart chakra is being awakened, there may be crushing pressures felt in the chest. I felt as if an elephant were sitting on my chest, and had the typical breathing difficulties during this period. All kinds of discomfort can riddle this area. The milder disturbances may take the form of fleeting, shooting pains; muscle tensions or the feeling of having wrenched a muscle in the front or back of the chest; dull aching; chest congestion; stabbing pains; fluttering or vibrating sensations; heart palpitations; irregular or rapid heartbeat and so forth. There can also be more severe pain: a feeling of being impaled by a stake through the center of the chest; a sense of the heart area being ripped open; or even symptoms that convincingly mimic a heart attack.

Often there is heat focused in this area when the chakra is awakening. This may feel like a warm, glowing sensation or blazing incandescence. After my heart chakra awakened, whenever I was in the presence of anyone who felt sad, I would feel a dark weight on my chest. And when I was with anyone who was directing love toward me, my chest would become very warm. This was a poignant instinctual confirmation. The actor Alan Arkin, whose guru initiated his Kundalini awakening, noticed this same heat in his chest when reading inspirational literature and said that this sensation proved an accurate barometer for knowing that "some kind of spiritual activity was taking place" when he first entered an unfamiliar bookstore or restaurant.

As the heart awakens, profound emotional changes frequently occur. The heart seems to both literally and figuratively break, releasing torrents of sadness and grief. For about six months prior to my acute "illness," I was having periodic bouts of labored breathing (my chest felt very constricted). During this same period, I was overcome with intense compassion for all the people I knew. I would be easily moved to tears upon hearing of any adversity in my friends' lives. This was not maudlin pity, but a deep sadness at the spiritual opaqueness of the world. Everyone evoked sweet-sad, deeply affectionate and reverent feelings in me; I perceived them all as beacons of innocence and beauty.

In many spiritual traditions, it's considered the greatest blessing when the heart chakra awakens. Many regard this the most important energy center of the human psyche. When the heart chakra is wide open, the suffering of all living beings can be acutely felt. At this stage, people may find that they cannot eat meat or even pick a flower, so exquisite is their awareness of the suffering of other living things. Those, whose heart chakra has awakened, generally cannot tolerate displays of violence or willful or uncaring cruelty. This aversion can arise suddenly and dramatically; people become ill, burst out sobbing, faint or shake uncontrollably in reaction to scenes of violence. This occurs even when the violence is remote or fictitious, as in TV programs and movies.

The heart chakra is also a well of joy. When it is awakened, deep feelings of reverence, gratitude, and bliss may arise. We may be overcome by a momentary flood of love, or may walk around in a state of continuous loving ecstasy that lasts for weeks or months on end. A sense of the incredible beauty of all creation can be staggering, and tears of rapture can flow as easily and uncontrollably as tears of sorrow. Realization of unity with the divine and/or with all existing beings is dramatic at this time. Tremendous feelings of appreciation and compassion arise.

It is not so easy to blossom with such radiance and sensitivity in our hardened society where unfeeling response and robotic behavior is considered normal, while heartfulness is despised for being too emotional and weak. Men have an especially hard time of it when this chakra opens and they shed tears in public. Yet imagine what a paradise this world could become if we were all awash with love and unable to endure brutality toward any sentient creatures. At this 4th chakra level of consciousness, the Golden Rule becomes a living truth; cheating, exploiting, excluding or otherwise inflicting harm on another is simply unbearable.

There are many psychic gifts, which arrive in the wake of heart awakening. Psychokinesis -- the ability to move or otherwise effect objects from a distance -- is related to a very active or awakened heart chakra. The power to do psychic or spiritual healing is also a sign that the heart chakra is opening. Some time after my heart chakra awakened, I was sitting on our back porch when I heard a terrible commotion break out between a group of people in a house down the street. There was loud swearing and screaming and sounds of things being violently thrown about. I wished so much that there was something I could do to send some peace to this family. The instant I had this thought, I saw a triangular ray of purple light extend from my heart chakra and zoom out in the direction of my combative neighbors. Almost as suddenly, all the yelling stopped.

I was astonished, deeply moved, but simultaneously filled with self-reproach. What right did I have to psychically interfere with other people's lives? No sooner had I formed this thought than the angry shouting and screaming resumed full force. Then a voice in my mind said: "Anything done in love is blessed." I took this as permission to send calming energies to my neighbors, which I again did. This time, there was one final slam of a door, then silence.

I repeated this peace-sending experiment several other times in other situations, a part of me still had trouble believing I could help people in such a simple, effortless way. Each time bore the same remarkable results -- instant tranquillity.

In my own experience, and that of others who have spoken to me about this, the heart doesn't remain in this heightened condition for the duration of the transformational process. Rather, it seems to move through cycles of recognizable peaks and plateaus. To those who have experienced the super-sensitivity of the wide-open heart, these plateaus may seem regressive. Sri Chinmoy, a spiritual leader and prolific writer of spiritually oriented books, compares the Chakras to windows which may open for a while, then shut down. "Sometimes," he says, "[the heart] opens for a few seconds, a few minutes, or a few days; then it may close again."

Although the Chakras may open suddenly, they generally take a long time to be fully activated. This gradual process allows us to acclimate to these extraordinary energies. What appears to be periods of relapse or regression are more likely periods of refinement and harmonizing. As powerful and "saintly" as the newly awakened heart consciousness can be, it is simply too overwhelming for most of us to sustain this heightened state indefinitely. We need to integrate these experiences, and to be able to move from them back into our ordinary human concerns again. The transformative process is not merely an elevator that delivers us to a higher level of awareness. Evolution is a continuum, though we rarely progress in a linear fashion. Even if we seem to be at a standstill or moving backwards, in actuality, it's a long, intricate process of expansion and balance.

5th chakra: EXPRESSION Inspiration, self-expression through communication.

This is the level of creativity. Through a healthily functioning 5th chakra, we are able to voice our true thoughts and feelings. The throat chakra often takes a long time to open. I suspect this is because most of us have had our voices stifled for most of our lives, being forbidden to speak (or even know) our own truths.

Sensations of strangulation, constriction or tightness around the neck and throat may occur, as well as inexplicable gagging and compulsive swallowing. During Irina Tweedie's throat chakra opening, she says that "I constantly kept touching my throat, feeling a kind of tightness as if I had a high collar." Jack Kornfield mentions that "At the throat there can be tension and coughing; I have seen people who sat and swallowed for days in a row." There may be internal pressure, which feels as if a tumorous growth is developing in the throat. When my 5th chakra was awakening, I could not swallow anything but liquids for months, and I lost 35 pounds.

An awakened 5th chakra can produce spontaneous vocalizations. These may be unusual sounds, singing, or words (sometimes in unrecognized languages) which do not seem to be coming from oneself. (This may be one of the reasons why the Hindu Rig Veda sometimes addresses Kundalini as "Vak" -- the Goddess of speech, although I know there are deeper esoteric meanings to this.) One may also begin to hear inner voices, or be able to hear other people's thoughts.

Other people's voices may be too stimulating when our own throat chakra is highly active. People find it difficult to tolerate the focused vocal energy of telephone conversation during these times. I found I could not listen to music that included singing or even the beautiful vocalizations of Gregorian chant.

There may be a sensation of a hole in the throat (or in the forehead or crown of the head) when the upper Chakras open; air or wind may be felt passing through the hole.

6th chakra: REALIZATION Abstract thought -- intellectual focus

This is the level of knowledge. When the third eye or 6th chakra is awakening, enormous pressures are felt in the head, particularly around the eyes and in the forehead area. These may cause mild, fleeting or persistent and painful headaches. There may be twitching and vibrating felt between the brows. The eyes may roll up into the head or go cross-eyed. (I often awoke at night to find my eyes in this position, even with my eyelids closed.) There may be dazzling internal visions; sometimes a huge single eye is seen staring out.

When the 6th chakra is pierced, one gains contact with spiritual guides, deities and one's guardian angel or guru. One may also gain access to the Akashic records, and be able to "see" one's own and others' past and future lives.

"When the brow Chakra is going strongly, sometimes one feels the head spinning and there can be a dull pain in the bone above the nose and when one presses there it is very tender, and something goes through the nose which makes you sniff," says Irina Tweedie. When this chakra opens, she remarks that "the world seems to change. There is great happiness and great peace."

Jungian analyst Sallie Nichols has noted: "Statues of the Buddha always bear some sign on the forehead. It is the sign of awakened consciousness, the symbol of the twice-born." The use of the bindu -- the dot on the forehead -- in Hindu tradition is to honor the importance of this chakra. A distinctly visible circular indentation sometimes forms in the center of the forehead of saints and gurus (such as can be seen in certain photographs of the late Neem Karoli Baba). Some individuals with awakened Kundalini have told me that they have developed a discoloration or slight indentation of the skin at the level of the third eye.

7th chakra: ASCENSION Reverence -- spiritual focus

This is the consciousness of the divine. When the crown chakra opens there are tingling or crawling sensations, vibrations, painful pressures or coursing energies felt at the top of the head. For some, the skull may feel sore. In my own experience and that of some others I have spoken with, the cranial bones actually start to separate and "float" beneath the skin. According to Arundale, "Kundalini is endeavoring to effect a permanent passage, tearing apart the mass [of obstruction at the top of the head], making a hole through it..." The Hopis believe that at one time, the fontanel on infants' heads remained soft in all humans throughout their lives. Through this opening, said the Chippewa spiritual teacher Sun Bear, "we were able to receive direct transmissions from the spirits." But the human race became "arrogant and hardheaded and Spirit sealed it over."

The awakening of this chakra is a transcendent experience. Spellbinding, superconscious light fills the bodymind in an explosion of a thousand inner suns. Samadhi (a deep, mystical trance state known to Christian theologians as raptus or ravishment) occurs when the 7th chakra is pierced, and may happen at spontaneous intervals thereafter.

Although many traditions celebrate the seventh chakra as the gateway to the soul's liberation, in some cases I am familiar with, incomplete purification in the rest of the system may create problems when this chakra awakens. Gabriel Cousens has made the same observation: "... it has been my intuitive experience in working with people suffering from manic psychosis that their crown chakra is wide 'open'... It is so activated, in fact, that these patients' lives become imbalanced." Energy-balancing or other therapeutic treatment might be needed if the Samadhi states lead to manic or psychotic behavior.


"I am confused about Chakras in relation to consciousness," a woman told me. "Does this relate to various altered states of awareness?"

Yes, but to ordinary awareness as well. For example, the 3rd chakra is the site of personal power, and is the "ceiling level" of perception for much of the population and for Western culture. This chakra level is the stronghold of the ego, and at its worst it plays out in an adversarial or exploitive relationship to life. By contrast, those who have an awakened or very active 4th chakra (which is the heart center) are able to live inclusively, with compassion and consideration for other beings. This does not necessarily mean they are in an ecstatic state of awareness (although when the heart chakra is fully awakened, such blissful states do occur).

Christina and Stanislav Grof offer this concise explanation of the Chakras: "The degree to which the individual Chakras are open or obstructed determines the way one experiences the world and relates to it. The three lower Chakras govern the forces that drive human behavior prior to spiritual awakening -- the survival instinct, sexuality, aggression, competitiveness, and acquisitiveness. The higher Chakras represent the potential for experiences and states of being increasingly imbued with cosmic consciousness and spiritual awareness."

Prior to spiritual awakening, we remain at levels of consciousness primarily involved with personal survival and self-gratification. At the 4th, heart chakra level, genuine consideration of others is possible. Artists, musicians, orators and inventors are often very active at the 5th chakra level. Genius is associated with a powerfully active 6th chakra. Religious devotees and spiritual seekers usually have an active 7th chakra.

The awakened Chakras are more complex. An awakened 3rd chakra produces clairsentience -- the ability to feel within oneself the physical and emotional state of others. This is a "no-boundary" condition in which one becomes like a psychic sponge, taking on every sensation and emotion in the vicinity. If the heart or upper Chakras are not also awakened, this can present great difficulties. Without awareness that these physical and emotional feelings are not all our own, we can become overwhelmed, confused and panicky.

An awakened 3rd chakra also makes one extremely sensitive to any manipulative, dishonest or malevolent intent from others. The awakened individual will feel queasiness, stomach pains, nausea or may even vomit in the presence of such people. These stomach disturbances -- which can include tightness or pressure in the solar plexus region -- are an instant barometer which allows the awakened 3rd chakra person to know when she is being deceived or imposed upon.

Sometimes these 3rd chakra disturbances are a reaction to collective atmospheric energy rather than to a specific individual. I have felt nausea and tension in my solar plexus during periods of strong public controversy, i.e., the week preceding the California execution of Robert Anton Harris and the weeks leading up to the U.S. presidential election. A person with an awakened 3rd chakra simply cannot afford to tolerate abuses of power. The instant and often severe visceral reaction mandates resolution of conflict. Likewise, when one's own 3rd chakra is fully open, ruthless competition is no longer a viable avenue for establishing one's own uniqueness. It becomes too painful to lie, cheat or dominate others. A person with an active 3rd chakra can be the worst kind of power-monger, but a person with an awakened 3rd chakra is forced to learn to use his will only in the healthiest and most life-affirming ways. (Failure to recognize this lesson brings much suffering to the individual in terms of chronic, serious physical and emotional disturbance.)

While the first three Chakras are primarily concerned with personal issues, the 4th through 7th are transpersonal. Chakras do not always awaken consecutively: the 3rd may awaken before the 2nd, the 6th before the 4th, and so on.

While the awakened 3rd chakra teaches us to do no harm for the sake of self-preservation, at the level of the awakened heart, we become fully altruistic. This isn't a desire to do good, or to save the world or other messianic ideas, which are actually 3rd chakra concepts. Rather, we are opened to the reality of other-as-self. We directly feel that what hurts one, hurts all and what helps one, helps all. At the heart level, we experience a great humility coupled with a profound awareness of the preciousness of all sentient beings. It is here, and at the 5th through 7th levels of awakening, that we open to the more glorious, rarefied realms of being.

In the Hindu philosophy, there is a complex set of symbols associated with each chakra, designating the qualities therein. Symbolically, each chakra is represented with a circular form surrounded by "petals." As the Chakras move up from the base level at the Muladhara to the Vishuddha at the throat level, the number of petals exponentially increases. What this signifies is the way life unfolds more and more at each level. After the 5th chakra, which when awakened allows us to blossom into spontaneous and genuine creative expression, comes the Ajna, or third eye. At this level are only two petals, which resemble wings. This is a fully transcendent state of consciousness. The awakened 6th opens us to wisdom; it connects us to the muses and divine inspiration. The awakened 7th enables full union with the divine (enlightenment). (There are Chakras and levels of consciousness beyond the 7th, but these openings occur independently of the risen Kundalini.) These awakened Chakras are portholes to the infinite, leading us to realms and realizations beyond the physical and beyond the mind itself.

When my Chakras were galvanized by Kundalini, I became immediately and experientially aware that certain thoughts and emotions pulled the whole energetic volume of the life force to particular chakra levels. Fear, conflict (of even a subtle form), and mundane thoughts like "I need to go to the market" and "Where did I put my glasses?" siphoned the life force into the solar plexus chakra. Any thought/feeling of appreciation or affection drew energy to the heart center. Chanting, singing (or even hearing someone else sing) drew the energy into the throat chakra. Prayers and silent repetition of mantras brought all energy into the crown chakra.

These shifts were instantaneous and almost violent in their intensity, with my energy slamming at lightning speed from chakra to chakra in perfect synchronization with my changing thoughts. It may be that the jarring impact of the shifts occurred to bring my attention to the correspondence between thought and chakra site. Once I discovered this, I was able to voluntarily move energy between Chakras. My heightened awareness -- and thus great sensitivities to these energies -- made it plain that I felt best, physically and emotionally, when I held energy in either my heart or crown chakra. But if the energy remained too long in either one, I became extremely uncomfortable. Too long in the heart built up insufferable heat and too long in the crown produced tremendous pressure within my skull. Being able to relieve these problems instantly, merely by selecting the nature of my thoughts, was a startling and welcome discovery.

The quality of life or degree of awareness does not correlate solely to the "height" of the uppermost-awakened chakra. In other words, a fully opened 7th chakra does not necessarily designate spiritual wholeness. Various teachings which counsel "proper" circulation of Kundalini through the Chakras contradict each other about which of the Chakras is the most suitable home base for intensified energies. Some traditions insist that only the 6th and 7th Chakras are spiritually viable and the rest should remain dormant. Taking the opposite stance are Tantric schools which designate the Tan Tien (second chakra) as the best center for the energy, warning that energies housed too long in the uppermost Chakras can cause brain tumors and insanity.

According to many teachers -- and I am convinced they are right -- the most crucial chakra is not the 7th, but the 4th. If the 4th chakra remains closed, everything else in the system will be askew. The 4th (heart) chakra is strategically in the center of the chakra column. It is the balance point. Our linear idea that higher is better has no relevance here. The 4th chakra is the axis -- equidistant from all other points -- that is the most powerful and influential in the cosmos. True to its nature, this center does not promote itself to the highest station. Literally and symbolically, it hides its greatness by its unassuming position. The 4th chakra is the connecting point for the ethereal energies above and the grounding energies below: it is the place where heaven and earth