There are three states of consciousness that a normal person goes through during every 24-hour cycle: waking, dreaming and deep sleep. There is also a fourth state that is only known to advanced yogis, called Turiya: it is the state of Samadhi or super consciousness. Each of us is conscious when we are awake, but when we go to sleep at night, it is said that we “lose” consciousness. When we awake, often we do remember dreams, but we never remember deep sleep, and yet if we are not able to enjoy a deep sleep we will not feel rested on awaking. Scientific sleep deprivation studies show that a person will become severely ill and could even die if they are not allowed to experience deep sleep. It is interesting that spending time every night in deep sleep, a state that we don’t even remember, could be that important to us.
The Sanskrit word kundalini means a coiled serpent. Kundalini is our consciousness or awareness, our ability to know, to understand, to perceive ourselves and others, to make sense of things and put things together. In a normal person, she is said to lie dormant in the lowest chakra for most of the time. That place becomes her whole world-the world of mundane survival-eating, sleeping, working, etc. But secretly, there is nothing that kundalini wants more than to be reunited with her beloved Shiva, who resides in the crown chakra at the top of the head. But that reunion is difficult because she has been long imprisoned by her jailer, known to all as the mighty ego. Kundalini is beautiful, intelligent and capable; she is satyam, shivam, sundaram-truth, bliss, beauty. But like many women, she often will cloak her true form, awareness and capabilities and appear dumb in order not to appear too intelligent, lest she alienate or challenge the all powerful ego.
Even though when put under the light of discrimination, ego’s attributes pale next to the serene beauty of the bliss-filled, immortal Maheshvara, for kundalini, ego does have one thing going for him that Shiva could never boast of: a thinking mind, a heart filled with almost infinite varieties of emotions and a firm commitment to time in the form of past, present and future possibilities. To be married to ego insures you of a mortal trip: the promise of the adventure is enough to seduce most souls to put aside immortality and climb on board the ship, the train, the bus or the shiny motorcycle, which is revved up and ready to go-it even has your name on the custom made helmet, as if that is going to really protect you on the dangerous roads of life.
Succumbing to ego and allowing ego to run your life is addictive. Most ego addicts stay enthralled with ego’s promises for millions, maybe billions of lifetimes. But thank God, there are moments of respite from the constant demands of ego and for sure, kundalini secretly looks forward to these breathers. Fortunately relief usually comes on a daily basis. Every night when ego goes to sleep, kundalini quietly uncoils from her resting place at the root of the tree and stealthily moves through the central channel to unite with her beloved in the rooftop. She may ascend and descend several times during the night. Characteristic of her gracious nature, as she moves up and down along the way to her destination, she may take the time to stop and whisper or sprinkle magical dust in the form of a dream to gently aid the unfulfilled yearnings she knows all too well that live in each lotus chakra. But as day breaks, she faithfully returns unnoticed to her abode in the first chakra, and ego never knows of her nighttime rendezvous with her lover.
As normal people, we hide from our own true Self, pretending that we are ignorant, mortal and unenlightened. Identifying with ego, we spend our lives insisting that this is all there is to life. The spiritual aspirant, however, is not normal; the spiritual aspirant wants to wake up. Yoga practices stimulate that awakening. Yoga practices stimulate the awakening of kundalini. Meditation has been described as sleeping while awake. Instead of losing connection with consciousness, which is what happens when we fall asleep, in meditation the yogi sits and stays awake, trying to catch kundalini as she rises from her coiled resting place and ascends to the rooftop-Shiva’s abode of joy in the highest chakra. Much like children who attempt to stay awake on Christmas Eve to catch a glimpse of Santa, yogis attempt through rigorous sadhana to be able to see and unite with God. Some may view this as the extinguishing of ego, but to the yogi, when kundalini unfolds her wings and flies to her final destination it is also freedom for the ego as well. Samadhi is yoga through meditation; the yogi yokes their ego to kundalini and is able to ride the snake to the ultimate wish-fulfilling, immortal, blissful, stillness of the sahasrara chakra-the ultimate movement into stillness, turiya. Liberation is accomplished-all are freed from avidya. Kundalini is no longer held in prison by a time-bound, mortal ego. Ego dissolves into the radiance of a fully conscious kundalini, who is now known as her true Self: atman, cosmic consciousness. This final transformation is into prema-true and eternal cosmic love.