It was a late afternoon in January 1971. I was casually walking along a sidewalk at the University of Missouri, where I was now enrolled.
It was an extraordinarily warm day for winter; the temperature had risen to the midseventies. People were wearing short-sleeved shirts during a time of year when shovels and plows typically were out clearing away snow and ice. I was headed for a record shop, probably humming a jazz tune, when out of the blue I felt the most intense comfort and joy I had ever known. Sheer calm, relaxation, and happiness spread through my whole being. As I went along the way, I began to feel my body getting lighter and lighter until I felt I had no weight at all. I wasn't concerned; I assumed it was a consequence of feeling so good on a spectacular day.
This bliss continued to escalate and elaborate. I soon found myself in the midst of a kind of awareness I had never known before. An uncannily deep calm and wide-ranging peacefulness flooded my consciousness and I felt a certainty about life that no words can adequately convey. In that moment it seemed that all questions about life's meaning could be answered instantly and effortlessly. I felt complete peace and joy, but at the same time I did not feel in the least ego-centered. On the contrary, I was losing awareness of my individuality. I was floating in pure consciousness. This knowing did not reflect or analyze what was going on, nor did it show delight, amazement, curiosity, or celebration of the moment. It was more like a total centering of awareness and being that became compressed to a microscopic dot, pulling in the container that had once held it, setting it free of physical and conceptual weight and burden. Paradoxically, this getting smaller resulted in a feeling of also becoming larger, a state in which my sense of time and space was lost in a realization of eternal presence. As I write of this event now, it is obvious that I was having some kind of mystical experience. But at the time I experienced no outside evaluation of what was taking place. I was the experience, absent of all internal conversation.
My body moved without effort. It wouldn't be totally inaccurate to say that I felt as though I were flying-or at least as though I were gliding along the sidewalk, without a single muscle exerting any force to move me. It was automatic movement of a body focused entirely on a sense of pure knowing that was absent of self. My body walked me up the steps of a small university chapel made of stone.
There was no one inside. The place was dark, with only a little light coming from a dimmed iron chandelier. A dozen wooden pews faced a Gothic-style altar. I walked up to the front pew, sat down, and felt like I had arrived at my natural place. I sat absolutely still, without thought or movement. In those moments I perceived what seemed to be the unity and wholeness of the cosmos.
I don't know how long I sat there, but I do know that what I am going to describe lasted throughout the evening.
It began as a baptism into a river of absolute love. My deep sense of knowing melted into an even deeper awareness, both of being loved and of loving all of life. To be more accurate, I did not feel separate from the beloved, and the beloved was the world. As I plunged deeper and deeper into this infinite ocean of love, the inside of my body began to get heated. The base of my spine felt like an oven that was getting progressively warmer until it burned with red-hot coals. As the inner heat turned into what felt like molten lava, my body began to tremble.
It may seem strange to you that I had no fear or anxiety about what was happening. I believe this had to do with the fact that I was not in a dualistic relationship with the experience. There was no "I" having "the experience"-there was only unexamined experience. The former boundaries of my self had simultaneously shrunk to an unseen dot and expended to embrace the whole of the universe. As I went further into the depths of love's unlimited oceanic space, I also went higher into the sky, feeling both the heavens above and the underbelly of Earth below.
The fireball within began to crawl slowly up my spine. It had a purpose of its own and nothing was going to stop it. Like a baby, after the breaking of its mother's water, this birth was determinedly on its way. As the lavalike movement crept upward, heat spread throughout every cell in my body. I was on fire. My legs, abdomen, arms, and especially my hands felt as though they could melt through metal.
Now I was really shaking, trembling, vibrating, and sweating. The inner fire became even hotter, vaporizing the molten lava into pure energy as it entered my head. This steam went out of the top of my head and turned into a ball of light that then stretched itself to a kind of oval, egglike shape immediately in front of me.
My body didn't cool down or become still. It continued to shake and boil as I beheld a sacred light that filled itself with the image of Jesus. I was in such an intense state of focus that it does not do justice to the experience to say that I saw Jesus. I saw, heard, and felt him at the same time. Every sensory process in my body was fully alive, creating a multidimensional, holistic encounter of the sacred.
As I beheld Jesus, as I felt him, a realization came that my hands were still hot as fire. I felt that I could anyone at that moment. Jesus then showed me other holders of sacred wisdom and light. His image dissolved into the image of the disciples, the Virgin Mary, and many other saints, some of whom I did not know. On and on, this slow-moving picture show continued, a magical multisensory film revealing what seemed to be the truths of all the world religions. I witnessed images of Gandhi, the Buddha, Mohammed, holy medicine people, shamans, yogis, mystics, and host of other sacred beings, all residing in immediate luminosity.
In this way I was shown that all religions and spiritual practices come from and return to the same source-a divine light born out of unlimited and unqualified love. This love boils inside the inner spiritual vessel and makes the body quake at the slightest awareness of its presence. As I received what others later told me was "direct transmission," "satori," "cosmic consciousness," and "spiritual rapture," my body dropped with sweat and was baptized with tears that would not stop flowing. I knew, without a doubt, that I was having the most important experience a human being could ever have. And I have never doubted since that time than an experience of that kind is the greatest gift a person can receive.
I believe now that I was hooked up to a cosmic source of timeless wisdom that was principally about relationship and econological connectedness (rather than particularlity and linear cause-and-effect interaction). In this hookup to a spiritual "gas station," I was filled with some kind of spiritual energy and knowing. That night my spiritual insides were rewired. I was reborn and made into a completely different person. I felt as though I received my entire spiritual education that evening, although it is taking me the rest of my life to understand it. From that moment at 19 years of age, I have carried an inner spiritual heat that precipitates body shaking and trembling as soon as I focus on spiritual matters.
But on that evening, 33 years ago from the time I am writing this account, I didn't know what to call what had happened. Nor did I know how to talk about it. I also wasn't sure what to do with the experience. I did find that it took several weeks to cool myself down.
I went to the university bookstore in hope of finding a book tht would give me some clue about what had happened. As I walked along one section of the store, a book dropped off the shelf and landed at my feet. I saw that it was the autobiography of a man named Gopi Krishna. This was the first time I ever encountered the word kundalini. As I stood there reading Gopi Krishna's account of how kundalini, the yoga term for inner spiritual energy, could be heated and activated, I was astonished to find that other people had had similar experiences to mine. However, in Gopi Krishna's case the kundalini awakening was so strong that it hurt him. I was very lucky to have only felt pure love, bliss, and revelation. There was no pain or horror in my introduction to kundalini.
Later I learned that kundalini is the same as chi, ki, seiki, mana, wakan, jojo, voodoo, Manitou, yesod, baraka, Ruach, holy spirit and holy ghost power. Whatever name you give it, it is the same. Somehow we all carry this wound-up spring of life force within us, at the base of our spines, and it can be awakened, causing it to heat up and ascend the spinal column. As I learned more about what had happened to me I couldn't help asking why kunalini had awakened in me. Was it an accident or had I done something to prepare myself for this?
I entered early adulthood with a secret understanding of my place in the world. I was here to help others be touched by spirit, whether directly or indirectly, however circumstances led that to happen. At the same time, I felt I wasn't ready to reactivate the internal heat to the degree that it had already played itself out. I told nobody of my kundalini experience. Something inside me said it would take many years of preparation and training to be ready to return to that kind of experience again.