JANUARY CHALLENGE… My Awakening Experience And Moving Forward

Here is my contribution to Barbara Franken‘s January Challenge series.

This is a story in which the right kind of trouble unexpectedly brings a gift.

From an early age, I struggled to feel a sense of belonging and identity. As a child I loved play-acting and imagining what it might be like to be a bear, a dog, a fox, or an orphan, a prisoner or conductor. My attempts at belonging were easily expressed by play-acting where I could put on a mask and give myself over to fantasy. But when not play-acting, I felt lost, convinced that I was missing something that others must have.

According to my parents Merriam-Webster dictionary, identity was defined as the quality of being a particular thing and not some other thing. Yes, I thought, my problem has something to do with a lack of being someone in particular. As I grew older, anytime I felt that others were defining me, even when they were being complimentary, I felt alienated. How could they know something about me when I had no clue? I was a fake, and I knew it.

Years later when in my early 30’s I moved to Oregon from Long Island, New York. After a few stormy years of relationships that failed, and feeling the need for solitude to just let myself be me, I started to practice meditation.

Some months later though I started to feel strong, uncontrollable emotions and I could no longer make it through a single day without crying. This was not the kind of crying where a few tears run down your cheeks, but gut-wrenching crying that would last until I finally fell asleep exhausted.

A year later, I was ready to seek out a guide. Having a love and familiarity with the writings of C.G. Jung and James Hillman, I entered into analysis. In the course of a three-year long therapy, traveling to the depths of hell and back, I experienced a most amazing and unexpected healing.

Not that I went from 0 to 250 in an instant. There was plenty of work to be done. Exploring my dreams, memories and relationships led me to see that I was filtering my experience through a very cloudy lens. There was a series of recognitions that came from therapy that both broadened my view and opened me up to not be afraid of an ongoing increase in that opening.

Many insights began to come into view, including a painful recognition that how I understood myself, others and the events of my life needed a revisioning. But with that came a recognition that nothing could happen without seeing how tightly I held on to a view of the past and present which bled into the future. Even if there are objective facts about my life that get to tell the story their way, what I needed was a story that made room for all the longings I ever knew and how to live with and through their power over me. That meant looking fear right in the face and learning how to talk back, and most importantly, learning to talk at all.

Seeing a deficiency in my use of language was a huge part of the work and it still is today. A love of words and language allows for an ongoing stream of ideas leading to new ways to experience and understand all that life has to offer. And for me, learning to open up to deeper levels of myself and others eventually led to the following life-changing experience.

One morning, much later in the therapy, upon waking from an emotional dream, I felt an intense burning and buzzing at the base of my spine. I sat up in bed, and felt what can only be described as an electric shock shooting up my spine into my head. I thought I might die it was so intense, but it only lasted a few seconds. I knew that something very big had happened. Over the course of the next few years, I began to feel different, physically, emotionally and intellectually. I felt tremendous healing as I slowly began to live closer and truer to matters of the heart.

It is as if now I am now more like a hollow reed where before I was a lead stick. It’s difficult to describe, but I continue to feel a sense of opening, enfolding, better able to love and be loved. And especially to belong – in my body, in my family, and in the entirety of this big, beautiful and crazy world.

There’s not freedom from suffering but to suffer as love does when it lives on in spite of the relentless longings. Feelings flow, moving through me without resistance. If I could bottle the experience, I gladly would and give it away. I am most grateful for feeling a sense of renewal.

Surprisingly, the one thing I thought I was missing; having an identity, I now know I never needed.

Next up in the series is one of my wonderful sisters in blogging, Linda – http://lindalitebeing.wordpress.com

46 thoughts on “JANUARY CHALLENGE… My Awakening Experience And Moving Forward

  1. Wonderful heart hitting post that gives me get a glimpse of a few more details that support the feelings I always get when I read the words you weave with such wisdom left shared with all of us here. Your courage, your fortitude and your grace gift us all.

    I too rreeaallyy think that words hold within the them the power to actually allow creation and destruction. They expand us and they contract us when we let them.

    We don’t always get what we initially thought we want, but as we write the endings again and again, this is a good thing. Sad songs and happy endings. To love is just a word until it is lived!

    I like pretending with you. I think we would have made some excellent refrigerator box and sofa cushion fort creations to hold court in (or wait, was that just in my living room last week?!)

    -x.M

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    • “I like pretending with you. I think we would have made some excellent refrigerator box and sofa cushion fort creations to hold court in (or wait, was that just in my living room last week?!)”

      I thought I saw you there. When I was young, my mom used to sing a song to us:

      (Corny alert)
      Oh little playmate,
      Come out and play with me,
      And bring your dollies three,
      Climb up my apple tree,
      Slide down my rainbow,
      Into my cellar door,
      And we’ll be jolly friends,
      Forever more, more, more!

      Sorry, that really is very corny 🙂

      xxx
      D

      Like

  2. Debra,
    Had a similar “electric shock” in the head years ago after fighting to return to my body after an out of body experience. Being out of the body induced intense fear and, as mentioned, upon returning to the body there was an unforgettable electricity-like sensation in the head (a few seconds).
    Thanks,
    Jerry

    Like

    • Wow Jerry!

      Having never experienced being out of body (except in dreams), that fascinates me.

      I’d love to hear more about it, if you are comfortable with that.
      Debra

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      • Debra,
        Years ago during a time when Carlos Castaneda’s books were being read, there was one writing by Castaneda where he described entire tribes/villages “taking off” or leaving this world – disappearing. At one point I was going thru a rough patch and considered doing the same (careful what you wish for). I was laying on the floor watching TV one night, nodded off, and found myself “floating” toward the back door of the house leading outside. I remember seeing the TV still on, becoming fearful, and trying to muster up any energy to get back into my body,
        I went through what the NDErs call the “tunnel”, came to a place which seemed like a mountaintop looking at a western sunset of orange-purple, then looking into my own eyes (soul?), my face within a foot in front of me. Somehow I returned to my body, experienced the intense electric-like sensation in my head, and that was that. The tunnel aspect makes me think it was close to or an actual NDE. Many personal NDE accounts surpass this as far as detail, including length, the “life review” etc.
        During that period there were out of body experiences in dreams like you mention, which are in the same “league” so to speak, so unfortunately are discounted unnecessarily by people. There was a relation between reading Castaneda’s books then and the experiences. An evangelist on the university campus years later, after I described the event, responded that it was satanic and deceptive. It’s difficult to understand or believe that the Creator would allow naïve human beings to be duped in such a manner. That interpretation doesn’t seem to make sense, as I had no malevolent thoughts at the time, or any time. Perhaps there is correlation between people going thru “rough patches” and the extraordinary experiences.
        Fascinating indeed.
        Thanks,
        Jerry

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      • Thanks Jerry.

        I agree with you, not every inexplicable extraordinary experience is demonic.

        I like the correlation with “rough patches.” As James Hillman put it, “Our wounds open us up.”

        Peace,
        Debra

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  3. I really enjoyed reading this and thank you for sharing it. I think one of the elements I enjoy most is discovering the truth in such a unique guise, and what I mean by that is that I felt a great deal of resonance with certain passages, like needing a story of yourself large enough to hold all of your longings so you could live through them, or the notion of finding your way to not being afraid of being opened up, and of experiencing an ongoing increase of that place within yourself. At the same time, it didn’t come in packaging I might call familiar.

    I felt, in reading this, the story of a being coming to accept a new or adaptable interface with experience itself, one that changed perhaps the being (you) and your experience of being. But there was very little discussion of the medium of the experience, of how beings and experience arrived on the scene. Just this striking out to explore what is.

    I love it.

    It reminds me of a Russian scientific perspective, like that of Vernadsky, (I think it was he and his colleagues), who didn’t bother with trying to understand how biology came to be. They just said, look, here it is. It has always and forever existed for all we know. What do beginnings matter? Freed of beginnings, it’s kind of an interesting vantage point, free flowing in forever. That is kind of a complete one-eighty on “what’s happening”, where everything is caused in a chain of events, and that is the delightful experience I had reading this… Like you freed yourself of beginnings… Like you spared yourself a million questions on who, what, and how, and went right to the core of what it is to be a being having experiences.

    Michael

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    • Thanks so much Michael for your insights.

      You are quite right to say that being freed from causality moves the experience to another level, another way to imagine the world.

      “Like you spared yourself a million questions on who, what, and how, and went right to the core of what it is to be a being having experiences.”

      I want to credit Hillman for part of this though. He reminds us that sometimes if we drop the question of why and move to the question of what, what we get is the phenomena itself, the face of the world, as he calls it.

      When we ask what something is like, rather than why is it the way it is, we amplify and so, look deeper, and maybe even look at looking.

      I do remember clearly reaching a point in therapy in which I understood that looking to my past to explain a current unhappiness was a dead end. Especially, when I admitted that I had more happiness in the past, and yet now I was looking to the past to place blame there for the present.

      There is a point where things become too personal, everything is then about “me.” We are then too unique, the obsession with self becomes blinding and the hunger to know that by which we know, can never be satisfied. As David Bohm says, it becomes a feedback loop and all you get is noise.

      Debra

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      • Thanks for your thoughts here. One thing I often remind myself is that the past is not an accurate barometer of what can be. It is one of those paradoxes, isn’t it? We are taught we need to learn from history, and I agree we don’t want to make the same mistakes twice. On the other hand, we all tell ourselves the limits of what is possible, the types of lives it is okay to pursue, the parameters one shouldn’t go beyond, and these are also based on the past. The past is a glass ceiling I think, or a glass sphere, like one of those toys you shake up to send the snow flying around. There’s a whole new world outside of our past…

        Michael

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      • Hi Michael,

        Great insights!

        We can’t not imagine, can we? So yes, we cannot but imagine the past, as we do everything else. We make sense of the world as it happens and on the best days, we are aware of our inability to know it fully.

        Instead of that inability being a liability, it benefits us greatly because our limits remind us that we can and most likely, may need to revision the written documents placed in our minds and memories.

        Yes, I like as you say, “there’s a whole new world outside of our past.

        Debra

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  4. Hi Debra 🙂
    What an inspiring journey. We often drown our sorrows in so much tears, we don’t realize the physical damage and burden we bear in so doing;but then again, it’s the only way most of us know, to release pain.

    That electric shock in the back did it though huh? 🙂 When the time came, the soul gave you a physical release. I simply can’t find any other way to put this, the junk had to go! 🙂
    I’m truly honored to share in all of this.

    Like

    • Hello Dotta,

      Yep, nothing like a cosmic kick in the butt to change your perspective 🙂

      I am honored too. I was just reading over at your blog, loving your post in the series. What a wonderful experience you had. Love your mom’s summary “O.”

      Yeah, it’s a big O!!! love it.

      Thank you so much for reading and sharing your thoughts here.
      xxx
      Debra

      Like

  5. “It is as if now I am now more like a hollow reed where before I was a lead stick.”

    What a magnificent description Debra. There’s something deeply sacred when a human being opens her/his heart and shares life as you have in this post. Your experience of that feeling in your spine just goes to show how in our healing, we do the work, but the healing itself is a mysterious movement within, beyond our control. Thank you.

    Like

  6. Thank you for sharing your journey. You are strong, but perhaps we need to became an comedian actors to play on our stage of life for more laughing… You know in a moments of a lack of being someone in particular I smile and remind to myself about the blessing to have a multitude of someone :-).
    It is a pleasure to read your thoughts.

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  7. What a present you give to allow us to walk along with you through your journey – from the lens of your now! The sorrowful, isolated times, though tough, seem such a gift along your way in the beauty of your blossoming today. It seems we are met along the way in our courage to keep on by such glorious openings! I love how the body becomes or is seen for the instrument (the hollow reed) it always has been when the mind noise clear a bit, and we can begin to hear the notes from the base to the tip. The experiences feel kindred, yet distinctly your own, as well, as the wind blows through each of our hollowed out spots with infinite variations. gratitude and love for the sharing! xo! marga

    Like

    • Thank you Marga for your very kind words and wonderful insights!

      This especially:
      “I love how the body becomes or is seen for the instrument (the hollow reed) it always has been when the mind noise clear a bit, and we can begin to hear the notes from the base to the tip. The ”

      So true! Your description reminds me that there is in this image of a hollow reed a recognition of the oneness of body and mind.

      Much love,
      Debra

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  8. Thank you so much Debra for sharing your most intimate journey with us all… As I read your words I here my inner mind saying… I wasn’t the only one… yipee… crying… lost… and then choosing to follow our heart and meditate… paying attention to ourself, in quietness… allowing… whatever comes up to happen… and when we are ready a teacher is available…
    I love your description (as some like to call it kundalini)… of your body responding and integrating with your spiritual essence and soul… and your continued journey consciously living in the world being YOU…

    You are a great inspiration and example to others Debra… Thankyou, Barbara

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    • “As I read your words I here my inner mind saying… I wasn’t the only one… yipee… crying… lost… and then choosing to follow our heart and meditate… paying attention to ourself, in quietness… allowing… whatever comes up to happen… and when we are ready a teacher is available…”

      I love your insightfulness here Barbara!

      There is so much truth and beauty in hearing someone else recognize the deeper, inner experiences.

      Thank you so much for your kind words and especially for initiating the series!
      xxx
      Debra

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  9. Hi Debra,
    I thoroughly enjoyed this post. I found myself enthralled, as only good writing can, with your story as I read.

    I am interested to know why you purposely avoided the word Kundalini. I found myself wondering why, and thought it better to just ask you than to project my own reasoning as to why!

    Thank you again for sharing such a personal part of your story here.

    Like

    • Hi Amanda,

      Thanks so much for your kind words!
      Thank you too, for asking about avoiding the word.

      I try to write in a way that encourages me to be a bit more descriptive about qualities and descriptions of experiences as it challenges me to offer an image in the writing. Not that I consistently am successful, but it’s good practice.

      I suppose too that I did not want to make a declarative statement about the experience, although I have never doubted what happened to me.

      I hope I answered your question…
      Debra

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      • Yes Debra, thank you. 🙂

        And you make an interesting point, especially since I must admit that when I read your description, I instinctively (unconsciously??) labeled it in own my own head…declaring, “Yep! She’s a Kundalini Rising Sister, no wonder I felt so akin to her!”

        Like

  10. Thank you Debra for sharing your story. For some reason I also was under the impression that meditation would even out emotions and bring more peace. Emotions are energy and need somewhere to go……

    I am pleased that you feel your place in the universe and that you were able to find excellent support. Therapists are human too and need to be chosen with discernment and much care. As a therapist myself, I also know that decent ones need to be working on themselves in order to be of service to their clients. You cannot take anyone further than you have already walked on the path.

    Blessings,
    Linda

    Like

  11. Thank you for sharing a part of your journey.

    “…gut-wrenching crying that would last until I finally fell asleep exhausted.”

    I sometimes wish I didn’t know what that was like…but I do.

    I think Westerner’s have this impression that meditation is going to help them get control over their emotions or rise above them. I think, truly, what is not being said very often is that meditation allows the space and time for these powerful emotions to come forth. Think about it. If ego defense mechanisms are protective, and meditation is a way to let go of ego, what’s there guarding the gate?

    “One morning, much later in the therapy, upon waking from an emotional dream, I felt an intense burning and buzzing at the base of my spine. I sat up in bed, and felt what can only be described as an electric shock shooting up my spine into my head. I thought I might die it was so intense, but it only lasted a few seconds. I knew that something very big had happened.”

    I don’t know why, but this passage seems so familiar to me. It’s not that I had that experience, but I read something like that before. I think I heard that described in someone’s kundalini transformational experience.

    This is actually a good thing, though from what I understand, it can be frightening if you don’t know what it is. Westerners can get themselves into a heap of psychological trouble without guidance.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kundalini

    “The popularization of eastern spiritual practices has been associated with psychological problems in the west. Psychiatric literature notes that “since the influx of eastern spiritual practices and the rising popularity of meditation starting in the 1960s, many people have experienced a variety of psychological difficulties, either while engaged in intensive spiritual practice or spontaneously”.[49] Among the psychological difficulties associated with intensive spiritual practice we find “Kundalini awakening”, “a complex physio-psychospiritual transformative process described in the yogic tradition”.[49] Researchers in the fields of Transpersonal psychology,[50] and Near-death studies[51][52] have described a complex pattern of sensory, motor, mental and affective symptoms associated with the concept of Kundalini, sometimes called the Kundalini syndrome.”

    According to the psychiatrist Carl Jung, “…the concept of Kundalini has for us only one use, that is, to describe our own experiences with the unconscious…”[53]

    The differentiation between spiritual emergency associated with Kundalini awakening may be viewed as an acute psychotic episode by psychiatrists who are not conversant with the culture. ”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kundalini_syndrome

    “The concept of Kundalini comes from Hinduism and is traditionally used to describe a progression of psycho-spiritual potentials, associated with the understanding of the body as a vehicle for spiritual energies. Kundalini syndrome is a term employed by Western researchers, and commentators, to refer to the condition which occurs when experiences traditionally associated with kundalini awakening arise, often unsought, which overwhelm or cause distress to the experiencer.”

    I think, if you know this is a ‘normal’ part of awakening, it might not be so frightening.

    Like

    • Hi Casey,

      You may have read about my dream awakening here as I did write about in an older post. Or maybe not…

      “I think, truly, what is not being said very often is that meditation allows the space and time for these powerful emotions to come forth. ”

      So true. I am grateful for having a wonderful guide in my therapist. Truly he was with me the whole journey and I trusted him very much (and this was part of the work as my family had had a very devastating therapy experience years ago).

      Yes, I purposely avoided the word Kundalini, but that is indeed what people call this experience. I may have been aware of what kundalini energy is at the time, but still did not prepare me for the intensity of what happened.
      Thanks for the great links and for your friendship here!
      xxx
      Debra

      Like

      • That’s really neat. I’m glad you had that experience. I am not sure if I had, though I know I’ve had other somatic experiences during my healing journey. It was Alice Miller’s work where I first learned that “The Body Never Lies” – how our traumas get stored in the body until they can be processed and released. I learned more about this release when my husband started studying craniosacral work and the advanced techniques that allowed trapped energies to be released. It’s really fascinating stuff.

        Actually, I do remember it was somewhere else, when I was reading about someone else’s awakening. It was very similar. And yes, that second link did describe the process of Kundalini awakening as energy moving up along the spine.

        And yes, therapists can cause a LOT of damage if they haven’t worked through their issues and kept their ego in check. The psychology field has its share of narcissists, too.

        I’m sorry to hear that your family had bad experiences with therapy. My family (mother and sisters) have never gone, and actively discouraged me from going outside the family to get any kind of help because she believed, “you don’t ever talk about what happens in the family”. Not that I ever listened to her…

        I was always cautious with therapy, partly because I was usually…no, pretty much always…more informed than the therapist. The best therapeutic arrangements I had were with therapists that had been able to collaborate with me and validate my experience and re-frame things in a positive light.

        I don’t know of any Jungian therapists around here. I had a person-centered/humanist/ therapist (based on Carl Rogers work) who specialized in trauma whom I enjoyed very much for about a year and a half, an Internal Family Systems therapist for a while who I didn’t like as much, but at least she validated the fact that I had some tough issues to cope with and that I had ‘parts’ of me that could take charge even if I had other parts that were paralyzed in fear. She used humor a lot and I found that kind of helpful. It was good to laugh sometimes. I had a CBT therapist for 3 sessions before I decided to fire him. He was incredibly invalidating, and said something along the lines that I must have done something to cause my family to treat me the way I had. I was so angry…

        It’s hard to find the right therapeutic alliance. I can’t work with people who are not compassionate and validating.

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  12. Debra:

    Thank you for sharing your journey. It is very moving and powerful. I am currently going through a journey that has echoes of yours (albeit I am at least a few years behind :-). If you would be comfortable, I would love to have an off-line conversation to ask some further questions about your experiences as well as asking some questions related to what I am currently experiencing. If interested, please e-mail me at williamockham17@gmail.com. (I’m not offended if you are not; I respect privacy. Heck, I can’t even use a real identity :-).

    Peace,
    W. Ockham

    Like

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