A mystery: Unwanted shaktipat? Boundary violation? Free-range potency?

Decades ago, I experienced something that stands out amongst all my human experiences.

I was alone at dusk, listening to beautiful singing and suddenly out of the corner of my eye, noticing a lightning storm in the distant mountains.

Everything in me wanted to pay complete attention to this experience, to be as present and attentive as possible.

And as soon as I set that intent and tuned in to the sounds and sights, something very unexpected and unusual happened.

I felt a strong energy enter my body, piercing me from the top of my head to the bottom of my torso. Crown to root.

The energy was forceful but not painful. I didn’t see it with my eyes but had a sense that it was white.

It was forceful like lightning, yet soft. It felt like it pushed things out of the way to make a bigger, clearer channel. It had a huge amount of what I now know is potency, or biodynamic life-force energy.

And as soon as it reached my root chakra, it left, leaving me in shock, wondering what the fuck just happened.

I didn’t know anyone at that time in my life to talk to about this experience who wouldn’t have thought I was crazy, so I kept it to myself. It seemed like a very freaky experience. I even wondered if I was crazy.

Is my focused attention really that powerful? Did I draw it to me somehow? Who needs an experience like that? Well, apparently I did.

I did save my ticket stub to the Santa Fe Opera where this experience had occurred, on a night with singers trying out for opera directors and hardly anyone in attendance.

I later came to consider it my energy awakening.

Years later, it occurred to me that it may have been related to me starting a practice of hatha yoga a year or so before the event.

I began to think of it as being zapped by Source, and I was feeling a little satisfied that even though I started learning hatha yoga from a book, rather than an in-person or even an on-TV teacher, I must have been doing something right for this to happen.

Even now, decades later, I am convinced that the purpose of doing asanas is to open the energy channels, a step on the way to samadhi.

Later, I wondered if what I had experienced was a spontaneous kundalini descending. I believe it was, although I’ve never practiced much kundalini yoga — been to a few classes but was never regular with it.

It seems that kundalini rising (from root to crown) is a goal in kundalini yoga. No one mentions kundalini descending. Same channel but opposite direction.

My crown chakra is often open, and I wonder if that zapping left me with a more open sahasra chakra.

Even later I learned about shaktipat, which as far as I understand is usually something a guru gives to initiate a student into his school of teachings — but only with the student’s agreement and consent.

As I understand it, shaktipat is more of a third-eye zapping. But I had no guru. What instigated that experience?

A little over a year ago, I experienced once again being pierced by energy, this time in my third-eye chakra. I actually saw the nearly-transparent energy coalescing in front of my face before it suddenly zapped my third eye/ajna chakra, going into the middle of my brain.

This time, I was with someone I’d just met that day. I don’t know if he gave me shaktipat without my consent or if it was spontaneous for both of us, or even if I somehow unintentionally gave myself or us both shaktipat!

I was simply too stunned to say anything, and I have no idea what his experience was.

If I knew how to give someone shaktipat, I would never do it without actually being a guru (not very likely), asking if they wanted to receive it, and only giving it if they gave their explicit consent to receive it.

It is shocking and invasive, not something to mess around with, although the benefit seems to be a clearing out of stagnant energy and strengthening the energy channel it penetrates.

It feels really fucked up to give it to someone without their consent. What kind of person would do that to someone they barely knew? Had he spent too much time in the nondual world to know how to interact responsibly and mindfully in the world of duality? I keep my feet in both worlds.

The experience was not sexual, but there was definitely an energetic penetration of personal boundaries.

Whatever amount of clearing out my ajna chakra may have occurred from that experience simply wasn’t worth it. My intuition was already pretty strong.

And then again, what if it was spontaneous for both of us? I’ve talked to a mentor who believes that free-range potency exists and that perhaps it was karmic. In a way, it reminded me of the proverbial romantic spark between two people, certainly igniting an interest, except much more powerful than I ever imagined it to be, and also not with someone who is available for a romantic relationship.

At this point, I sometimes wish it had never happened. I’ve observed this person being impulsive and presumptuous toward me since, and it raises my hackles. He is actually a pretty cool guy, someone I really want to like and trust, but I have set a boundary. Respect and mindfulness are important.

Trust can possibly be rebuilt, or actually, built in the first place, but only with accountability, respect, and honesty.

I am going to meditate on this: on this experience, on this person, and on myself.

I’d love to hear your input on this. Have you experienced anything like this? What would you do?

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35 years after a spiritual awakening, nothing dramatic happened

On August 14, 1984, I experienced a dramatic spiritual awakening, but I didn’t know that it was at the time. It took years for me to find a context and to recognize it as spiritual.

Here’s the backstory. I, a single mom and full-time college student, employed part-time in a psychiatric hospital, took a much-needed vacation, leaving my beloved 3-year-old daughter with her grandparents for a week as I traveled from Norman, OK, to Santa Fe, NM, not that far in miles, but my first solo vacation.

In hindsight, this was a sobering period of my life. I was raising my delightful child by myself, with little help from her father at that time, which I hadn’t planned on. I was stressed from working and going to college without much money or support from anyone. My family was in another state, and I had few friends in Norman then, and no money for a babysitter so I could go out and meet people. I felt like it was all on me to make a future for myself and my child, one day at a time.

This vacation meant a lot to me — a break from constant single parenting so I could experience myself as an individual once again, which is such important self-care for mothers. I drove to Santa Fe, my first visit to that town. I believe I stayed at a bed and breakfast, but maybe I camped. I don’t remember what all I did as a visitor to the city that time, but while there, I learned that the Santa Fe Opera was holding auditions for opera companies. Singers from around the country went onstage, one at a time, and with no sets or costumes, sang famous arias for opera directors from around the world who were looking for new talent. Purchasing a ticket was affordable, and I thought going to opera try-outs would be a novel and entertaining experience.

On the appointed night, I wore my thrift store jeans, t-shirt, sandals, and backpack to the Santa Fe Opera — a magnificent structure with a roof cantilevered over the audience and wings open to the hills and distant mountains, an open-air experience in a beautiful setting.

There weren’t many people there, just a handful near the stage, presumably opera directors listening to the singers, deciding who to hire.

I arrived late and stood at the back, surveying the area in front of me, listening to the beautiful, almost unearthly sound of a talented soprano singing an aria. Might it have been something from Mozart? Verdi? Puccini? I don’t recall. To inspire you for the setting, though, here’s my favorite aria, so you can get a sense of the incredible beauty I was hearing.

Meanwhile, dusk segued into night. In the open-air wings on either side of the stage, lightning flashes outlined the hills and mountains in the distance.

Was it sensory overload from the sound and the view, the glorious aria surround-sounding me with the dramatic weather and terrain as backdrop? Was it that a poor struggling single mother stood and listened in this beautiful opera house built for the culturally and financially elite? Both and/or something else?

The next thing I knew, I felt an energy — it seemed to be white light and yet it was palpable — piercing the top of my head and going all the way through the center of my body down into the ground under my feet. There was a strength and an insistence to this energy. You WILL feel this. It WILL be clearly undeniable. It WILL penetrate your being from crown to feet. It WILL change your life.

I was transfixed.

Nailed.

Immobilized.

I don’t know how long it lasted, but it was long enough to make a deep impression. I had no conceptual context at the time to put this experience in. I knew nothing about the energy body, sometimes called the subtle body although at this time, it was anything but subtle. It was an undeniably enlivening, beneficent, mysterious experience.

Having no explanation, I shrugged it off as a one-off experience, and I tucked it away in my memories, wondering if someday I would understand it.

With hindsight, I can say that it gave me strength. Something unusual and special had happened to me. It marked me. Even though the physical sensations of being pierced by white light faded, I had this memory. In some way, I felt chosen, although why me, I can’t say.

At various times since then, I have had a sense that some higher power is looking out for me. It’s not that I never make mistakes or struggle with problems. I do. The real blessing is that I accept these as part of being human, not to be avoided but to learn from. I can change and grow.

Maybe this experience was fuel for getting through some hard years. My mother died unexpectedly two months later, and I grieved hard about losing her, having never imagined raising my child without her presence and advice. I had a bad experience with a psychotherapist. I felt a lot of sorrow and loneliness and struggle for years.

The experience let me know for sure that there’s more to life than just the material world, which was the mindset I grew up in. People I knew just didn’t talk about spiritual experiences. What is this energy that I can’t see (except sometimes I could — another story), that I can’t grasp (but I can now palpate and even feel it pouring out of me now)? Qi, prana, life force… It’s there all the time but mostly ignored, unless you seek it out through qi gong or yoga or energy work — or it makes itself known to you, like it did me.

Years later, I finally connected this experience to starting to practice yoga a couple of years earlier, in 1982, when my daughter was a year old — from the book Richard Hittleman’s Yoga: 28 Day Exercise Plan (amazingly still in print) — because that was all I could afford at the time.

I was so yoga-ignorant then, I thought asana was pronounced a-SAH-na. I of course didn’t have the good eye or experience that yoga teachers use to help students get the most out of each pose. I was on my own, and I was diligently doing some yoga that was making a difference. Luckily, I did not injure myself. Practicing every day, learning new poses, getting into my body, building what we now call somatic awareness, was a highlight of each evening. I didn’t own a mat. I used a blanket or a towel. I did the work in front of me, day by day, as the book prescribed.

I’d always been flexible as a child, able to do backbends, cartwheels, walkovers, headstands, and I enjoyed my daily yoga practice. Sometimes my toddler joined me for a short time — we liked downward facing dog a lot. I finished the Hittleman book and may have gone back through it a second or third time. Once I got a television set, I watched Lilias on PBS and learned to pronounce AH-sa-na correctly.

I got other yoga books. Sometime in the next few years, I learned about chakras, the energy vortices along the body’s midline. There’s a lot of lore about chakras — colors, number of lotus petals, sounds, stones, etc. I don’t remember anyone back then tying the chakras to the anatomy of human body, to the places where the spine curves or to the endocrine glands, but I wasn’t looking at the right sources.

Saharasra, Sanskrit for the crown chakra, is said to connect us to the cosmos and to divinity, just as the root chakra connects us to the earth. Saharasra’s color is white or violet. It’s said to be the chakra from which all other chakras originate. It is located where the anterior fontanelle is in infants, where the coronal and sagittal cranial sutures meet, and is considered to be related to the pineal gland, which we don’t fully understand, except that it regulates the sleep cycle, a foundation for healthy living. Some say it affects performance, decision-making, psychological health, spiritual awakening, and self-actualization.

Doing yoga asanas opens up the channels through which prana/energy flows. My crown chakra opening was the result of practicing yoga for a couple of years. I cleared my energy channels, which allowed this further clearing and energizing experience.

It’s interesting that I now practice craniosacral therapy, a bodywork modality that works with the body’s midline and chakras and uses energy awareness to facilitate the release of restrictions (aka, healing).

I was in Santa Fe earlier in August, and I stopped by the Santa Fe Opera one day in honor of this memory. It’s had improvements and an expansion since 1984. La Boheme and Cosi Fan Tutti were playing that week, and I seriously considered going. However, the tickets were quite expensive, and I didn’t have anyone to go with or the proper attire for the opera, given I’d been camping. It might have been loads of fun, given some advance planning.

Instead, I took a yoga class (Prajna) in a great studio (YogaSource) with a great teacher (Linda Spackman). I attended a dharma talk on community at Upaya Zen Center. I ate some great Indian food at Paper Dosa. I danced and connected with a few people and enjoyed my four days in Santa Fe.

And nothing dramatic happened. It was just life, which is mostly pretty good.