Kara-Leah : “Elephant Journal Article : ‘Getting out of my mind: drugs, yoga, meditation & me'” – a Complex Review

11 May
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“the intent of this blog is to incrementally build a body of thought that works toward integrating various topics, yoga, fitness, and the arts – it’s a process…”

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kara-leah : “elephant journal article : ‘getting out of my mind: drugs, yoga, meditation & me‘” – a complex review

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Intro

Intent

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Seriousness

i felt strongly enough about this to do what i haven’t done before on my blog, review an article

different from my yoga related dvd reviews, reviewing an article written by someone else, especially in the yoga field, and more especially someone with way more experience, is kinda like critiquing an older brother, or a more experienced player on one’s team, not something i would do lightly

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Choice of Format for this Review

this is also different from doing serial twitter quotes from articles, as i sometimes do for a longer piece i like, such as from magazine of yoga -

or tweets from before my yoga-adan blog, such as about my yoga teacher immersion

and different again, from a long comment, with quotes and commentary, on someone else’s blog

i felt that both the seriousness and importance of kara-leah’s article, a blend of autobio-history joined with philosophical conjecture and blatant self-honesty, didn’t so much warrant a full blog post, as it necessitated it

not that i agreed with it 100%, i have my quibbles ;-) which i post toward the end of this article -

but they are quibbles, and don’t feel they negate the essence, or meat (sorry vegan’s) of her story and conclusions

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Choosing This Article

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Why This Article?

(1) initial impulse reason

so why this article? why not one of the many others i’ve come across and enjoyed, since early this year, when i first discovered the wealth of yogic material online?

and by wealth, i mean, for me, substantive articles and videos of philosophy, anatomy, pose work, and much more!

yet, these works seem self-contained to me within fields that, by virtue of that placement, within an established body of respected work or site, would generate discussion and comparative research, that make those articles secure in their being followed, and safely held for future reading

The Light Through the Trees

The Light Through the Trees, Original Photography by Adan Lerma

“getting out of my mind: drugs, yoga, meditation & me” by kara-leah, at yoga lunchbox in new zealand, while written by a recognized yogini, actively pursuing her vocation and life, with a well established following, never-the-less, gives me the impression of a message in search of a home, with a message-life almost precarious

like kara-leah, trusting her fate to her heart

and succeeding, but -

delicately…

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(2) message reason

the message of “getting out of my mind: drugs, yoga, meditation & me” seems adrift in a world not wanting to hear why too much of a favored drug, like coke or alcohol or tobacco, might not leave a lasting message-massage that lasts…

add the depth and clarity by which she describes her experiences and realizations -

Light on the Trees

Light on the Trees, Original Photography by Adan Lerma

added with the realization that her previous drug-enhanced self-discoveries, were themselves a veil – and a potent yet fragile message forms

as an example, about grass, she says,

“weed allows us to emotionally detach, which can make appear as if its easier to work through some issues, but in reality, all those emotions that one is detaching from still have to be felt and released. Smoking weed was just constantly putting off the inevitable.”

and she brings the responsibility, relentlessly, yet, compassionately, back to the user…

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(3) conclusion reason

combine an article about drugs, a title possibly suggesting enlightenment thru drugs, and a call for self-responsibility, and the life expectancy of the message is endangered by its surroundings and embodiment

but its clarity and honesty cry deservingly for an ear

i’ve listened, and i now echo that thought…

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Other Articles I Had Considered

in all fairness to all the great articles residing out there in reading-dom, i’ve only begun searching for and finding yoga-fitness related material since very early this year

in that time, three come to mind immediately, though at least a dozen struck me as uber-important for me

1) “Conversation: Tom Myers – Fascia as our ‘Organ of Form’” subtitled, “The author of Anatomy Trains explains what’s new about how we understand being human, inside out”

this interview with tom myers introduced many new vital concepts to me regarding how our bodies are more gestalt-y, physically, than i realized

tom is in a secure group setting, and his message, though, i hadn’t heard it before i read of it in magazine of yoga, should continue gathering steam with new supporting integrative-science continually added

an audience is more than assured, i think, for this important work

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2) also at magazine of yoga,

Light on the Trees

Light on the Trees, Original Photography by Adan Lerma

Conversation: Jill Miller – The Magazine of Yoga 2011 Teacher of the Year” subtitled, “Students must begin listening to their inner teacher and gain self-reliance and authority over their own somatic territory.”

jill’s approach appeals to me, and her interview with susan maier-moul, editor of magazine of yoga, had an immediate impact on me -

she re-affirmed my own beliefs in each student finding the keys to their own body

it opened my eyes to the growing body of yoga teachers working in this vein, that of  “helping that student to navigate their own mind into their body”

jill has an entire teacher training program across the country, and a great website filled with videos and other information, which i often share links to with my students and family

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3) “Thinking (& Dreaming) Yoga: Integrating Left & Right Brains to Change the World” by carol horton, at her website, thinkbodyelectric, is one of my currently favorite articles

she says, “

what I think is so profoundly valuable about yoga and meditation is that they are accessible practices designed (among other things) to train our minds in ways that allow us to access both the left and right hemispheres of our brains – the rational and the extra-rational, the logical and the artistic, the analytic and the intuitive”

i’ve thought this true since way way back in 2nd grade -

finger-painting while wondering who might live on that tiny thing called an atom that made such a pretty color ;-)

The Light Through the Trees

The Light Through the Trees, Original Photography by Adan Lerma

i first found carol’s article on elephant journal, an excellent site for continuing articles of interest and discussion (read controversy!) – it was posted just recently, at the end of march

this is the kind of clarity i’ve also found in kara-leah’s work, full of incisive and important thought – i find i really respect both ladies’ work

carol is a former political science professor and author, with a solid base

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Disclaimer

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number one, unless one counts smoking, alcohol, and apparently normal youthful experimentation with a bit of grass, i don’t have much to go on in regard to the depth of range of kara-leah’s drug use

i rely mostly on my horrendous experience for nearly two decades to quit smoking, once i began at age 14, to measure the truth of kara-leah’s words

my eventual letting go of tobacco was long, was painful, but finally complete – emotionally mentally and physically, tobacco stained my health-habits in ways i’m still realizing

now, thru yoga, i am finally allowing myself to breathe deeply again, i guess previously having feared i was re-enacting puffing on nicotine if i drew a deep deep breath ;-)

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second, i have never met or privately conversed with kara-leah, or bob weisenberg at elephant journal, where i read this article (it was posted on the yoga lunchbox six months earlier in a less edited condensed form)

so, as with my dvd reviews, or reviews of instructor training, whether with silversneakers or my immersion with lex gillan, my aim is to give an honest fair rendition of my own “take” on what’s being offered…

and if i do know someone more than in printed-words-passing ;-) i aim to always say so

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Review

Stops Inside the Article

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* kara-leah does a nice job of setting up her pre-drug beginnings, plus a concept she calls “peer pull” – a quick google search didn’t find anything on peer-pull, so this might be a unique kara-ism; and how defenseless she was against it

* from there, a journey that began with alcohol, to weed, to, as she says, “in no particular order” : mushrooms (organic), lsd/acid, ecstasy, ketamine (horse stuff), speed, cocaine, and nicotine, but no heroin

* her clearly expressed differentiation between the various drugs, and types of experiences, are illuminating, even if disturbingly authentic in feel and detail

* her, i assume, tongue-in-cheek rationalizations to herself, related to us now, of how she then saw herself as a “social” user, not “crazy” or an “addict” –  are a tag-along let-me-hold-your-hand trip into her world at the time

* swish in a chaser of kundalini awakening, resulting in a mental-car-wreck with psychosis, and you have, again as kara-leah expresses it, “the story of use…nothing out of the ordinary…i know hundreds of people just like myself…”

for most of us, for whom this is not within our “ordinary” – we might begin to feel that this story, which started so promising, just isn’t, well…”us”

and exit the pages here…

mistake

* the next section begins with one sentence: “now what to make of it all?”

* for someone who so intently prefers the heart over the mind (one of my quibbles below) kara-leah’s organizational and expressive clarity of further distinctions between the drugs as social enhancers, or consciousness-expanders, are profoundly helpful road-signs along a coastal hwy without railings

* within the first category, she found experiences that gave her the same drug high, but without the same drug come-down, and found her raison d’e´tre (excuse my french ;-) ) for a life from within the heart, rather than the mechanisms of her mind

* within the latter category, her growing awareness, which she attributes to her experiences within yoga, enabled her, she says, to see where drug use appeared to awaken consciousness, but actually further masked it

there still remained, she discovered, the necessity to still have to work through her issues: clearly, sanely, and in a manner that her new state of being, wouldn’t “come down”

a nice example from kara-leah worth repeating, from above in my article, is :

“weed allows us to emotionally detach, which can make appear as if its easier to work through some issues, but in reality, all those emotions that one is detaching from still have to be felt and released. Smoking weed was just constantly putting off the inevitable….”

* shamans and drugs is tackled as an issue, now with a strongly felt awareness-presence that “drug use has a cost attached to it”

* her lsd experience, she feels, was faster and different than others she knew, because of what she describes as her kundalini development

* to her credit, kara-leah then joined two concepts: “the need for connection” and “the need for oneness” as having “underscored all [her] drug use”

and proceeded to detail her drop into psychosis, and the re-structuring of her social network -

ultimately discovering, that “what i did find really difficult was finding my place again”

* bringing a yogic or cosmic perspective deeper into her life, kara-leah could finally say, while writing her article, “I am a person who, in the past, used drugs. My experience does not define me for all time.”

* and, “In the end, we are all on the same path, facing our own demons in a myriad or guises”

* nearing the end of her article, she recognizes our uniquenesses -

Whatever the path we’re on, none of us can ever truly know what it’s like to live as another. All we can ever do is offer understanding, love, and compassion….”

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these “stops inside the article” that i’ve noted above, are an inadequate best-i-can-do justice to kara-leah’s authenticity of voice

becoming ourselves in sustainable self-awareness, despite the myriad temptations of modern life, whether one smokes, drinks, eats, or self-medicates in an effort to achieve sustainable self-awareness, is, i believe, what kara-leah is saying

this is her story….

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Quibbles, Things I Don’t Agree With

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1)

heart over head

kara-leah has chosen to focus her path from within her heart

most of us, including myself, with my analytical mind, could do much worse ;-)

as she says in her article,

“There’s a BIG difference to a life experienced from the mind and a life experienced from the heart”

however, there’s also a big differencebetween having one’s heart or mind as one’s on-earth headquarters, so to speak ;-) , and feeling one’s mind is a problem, as in her line, “Damn powerful Mind”

The Light Through the Trees

The Light Through the Trees, Original Photography by Adan Lerma

she was referring, i believe, to the struggle she had controlling her mind’s meanderings (no stranger to my own experience either) and feels, for her, a heart focus supersedes a head focus

as mentioned above, in “other articles i had considered,” i strongly side with carol horton on the possibility and advantage of merging our feeling and thinking selves

the heart, as anything embodied in our very human form , can beat with as much waylaying-distraction as our minds

there are valid reasons, i believe, humanity has struggled to evolve from religious rites masked with mystery, to a time of open inquiries by a skeptical science

and in turn, of course, we are clearly seeing where science can create it’s own dictatorship over people’s daily lives

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it’s interesting to me, in thinking about this quibble, that i remembered some texts i’d partially read in the late 60’s and early 70’s

alice baily has a series of esoteric philosophy styled books, which i was first introduced to by then william david (now elias de mohan), at the esoteric philosophy center in houston, an interesting  coming-of-awareness-age in itself ;-)

one of alice’s theories revolved around the concept of 7 rays, like the spectrum of light we can see, influencing cosmic development, and that the most recent period, of a thousand years or more (i’ve forgotten the exact time frames now) were focussed on the ray of devotion, which, though not the heart, relate to the heart rather than the mind or willful line of energy

even if not true, it certainly lends a nice description on human orientation these past thousand years, even though i still prefer carol horton’s approach personally ;-)

so for me, kara-leah’s approach is just a touch too dismissive of the mind in favor of the heart, despite her own charmingly-intellectual clarity in her article!

and, as kara-leah adds, “My path won’t be the path that all people who use drugs take”

plus, i’m open to learning / discovering, i do love both my mind and my heart

yes, i could easily do worse ;-)

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for those interested in my own right brain intuitive efforts, in poetry and photography, please see either my poetry or photography series

the history of my dba’s also details more of my art-feeling-orientations to life

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2)

male / female

i hesitated briefly addressing this, wondering if this was really too much a quibble-quibble ;-) but found some support i’m not being “too” picky, via a comment exchange recently

beginner’s mind” is one of my favorite blogs online, run by kristin shepherd, on the yoga journal site

she had posted an article with some lines from ee cummings i liked, and i’d commented on,

“re ‘whenever men are right they are not young’ -

“gives me some hope for being old!

“nice article, thanks ;-)

and she replied, “Adan, Me too, as long as women are included, kristin” -

which i think is a perfectly valid comment-response; almost like playing the edge of communication, seeing where the other person is coming from

Light on the Trees

Light on the Trees, Original Photography by Adan Lerma

i replied that i understood and agreed totally, and, despite being born and raised in texas, had not started learning english til kindergarten, which resulted in my not ever having internalized the concept of referring to people or humanity, as “man,” or “hombre”

in that vein, when kara-leah, in the much larger context mentioned above, in “stops inside the article,” says, “easy to stigmatize the illegal drug user yet abuse food, nicotine, alcohol, women…” -

i, knowing full well most of the visible brutal harm is done by men, still cringe, wondering -

why not a more balanced view that includes the harm we all can potentially suffer, from either sex, and from one sex to the same sex (men sent to war by men, etc) ?

having been reading kara-leah’s articles a few months, with include guest posts from men, and her admiration of several male swami’s, and the love she expresses for her small son, i feel this is a tiny quibble – but quibble it is ;-)

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all that quibbling said ;-) i don’t feel any of that affects the message of her article, its validity, or its authenticity

if anything, it probably substantiates her authenticity

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Postscript

Possible Quibbles About My Own Article Here

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ah, let me count the ways ;-)

1) not enough pictures

2) too long

3) don’t know enough of what i’m talking about

4) so what?

5) boring

well, i can’t disagree too much, some things (many things?) just take me awhile to get said; i seem to be able to intuit some things that take a long way getting laid out in words ;-)

part of why i say, at the top of each of my posts,

“the intent of this blog is to incrementally build a body of thought that works toward integrating various topics, yoga, fitness, and the arts – it’s a process…”

and some things get aren’t as interesting to beyond a certain number of people -

which leads me to my final stretch of my review of kara-leah’s article!

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Possible Reasons Article Isn’t as Viral as Hoped

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Why Would I Wonder About That?

several tweets from others, regarding the article mentioned, “Thought it would ignite more discussion!” -

based purely on conjecture on my part, and who knows, by the time i finally get this review online, her post might be busting the digital airways!

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already, a couple weeks after kara-leah’s article was published on elephant journal, she has published an article on her blog entitled, “it’s ok to be happy you now?” -

plus started a new website, kara-leah, lost my mind, found my heart, home at last with, among others, an article titled, “i’ve found the meaning of life

her new, additional, website, offers writing coaching and one-on-one yoga teaching, both available online

so maybe greater discussion is just readying to ignite after all ;-)

much of her work would deserve the wider audience

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The Light Through the Trees

The Light Through the Trees, Original Photography by Adan Lerma

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Pure Conjectures (on my part)

one reason, i believe, and possibly the most important, is that there really is a stigmatization on someone who’s gone heavily, or perceived as having dove deeply, into drugs

this may or may not be a valid objection on a particular person’s part to not read or take the content of the article seriously, but it’s a choice sometimes taken for that reason

this is one reason i felt a review of “getting out of my mind: drugs, yoga, meditation & me” was warranted

i still feel, as i’ve tweeted, that kara-leah’s article “may become an iconic foundational piece”

becoming viral isn’t necessary for it to be something important that people will either search for directly, or find via a related search -

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which leads me to my second purely conjectured reason ;-)

that the title of the piece, is kinda tantalizing, and i’m assuming that was at least partly wanted, but is like a litany of key words for seo optimization – which again, in the long run, might pay off, especially for a long-term foundational piece, but -

but in the now-run, is ambiguous as to whether the article means it’s about transcending “because” of drugs (which kara-leah disavows), or about “going” out of one’s mind via “getting” out of it, or of discounting the mind portion of our gestalt -

all without the seasoning savor of a little humor, which might’ve tempted someone into such a minefield of key-words, the mix of words itself sounds dangerous ;-)

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thirdly, and i’m really speculating here, kara-leah doesn’t present her present state as someone newly discovering life and it’s possible meanings, but as someone who’s kundalini is fairly advanced up the totem pole

whether true or not, this may be off-putting to regular folk who haven’t experimented much with drugs to begin with (though struggling with similar issues via food, meds, fear, lack of fitness knowledge, and so on) – much less to folk just struggling to quit smoking, or cut back on bad calories

so to feel that one has to have tried the litany of drugs listed and had their kundalini tickling their innards, may be more than most of us feel we have prerequisites for

but really, can we really still not be curious? ;-) at least vicariously?

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kara-leah did mention providing more information about kundalini, and this past weekend, published “suggestions on what to do if you’ve had a kundalini awakening” on her yoga lunchbox site

the article is filled with cautionary common sense suggestions, especially to remain or regain being grounded, and seeking professional help as needed

i particularly liked suggestion # 8, regarding “grandiose thoughts and ideas”

[excerpt] “this kind of experience is available to everybody. You are not the chosen one, you are not the next Buddha, although you may be on your way to becoming a buddha. That is, a person who is awake!”

this non-elitist attitude appeals to me

the calm reasonableness does also

and i can’t define if i’ve had or will have a kundalini style experience, but this follow-up article is a nice read, and, i believe, a needed supplement for her main article i’m reviewing

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Final Thoughts

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Basic Conclusion

beyond that, i stand by my feeling that “getting out of my mind: drugs, yoga, meditation & me” by kara-leah, has the qualities to establish itself as an iconic foundational piece in 21st century yoga

it’s honesty and authenticity, it’s clarity of expression navigating the buckshot of drugs dragging through our society, and it’s insistence on both, the individual’s responsibility and our absolute need for connection :

We humans crave connection

“We humans also crave oneness -

these are vital important concepts for peace and self-fulfilment

her first hand navigation-accounting, like a light among the trees, shows beauty and branchings of truth, all rising and extending with life

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Kara-Leah’s Self Honesty

one of the things i most admire about kara-leah, is not the trials and tribulations she describes in her elephant journal article, not the degree or lack of degree of spiritual awakening she may or may not have, but her self-evident authentic desire to be honest with herself, and thus to her readers

early this year, she had written an article titled, “why i may not take another yoga class ever again

it was very provocative, and received a great deal of debate-feedback

kara-leah came to the conclusion, in “an apology to the ashtanga community” that, though she didn’t feel her stance inappropriate or incorrect, she “was unclear, and less than skillful in my use of metaphors” -

that takes guts

and she engaged the questions at hand

it’s another kara-leah article i’d recommend ;-)

but my real point is, she is someone who can and may be wrong, even if only expressively so, but if she can see it, she’ll admit to it

it makes me feel strongly, that most of her work is worth looking at -

that “getting out of my mind: drugs, yoga, meditation & me,” is not only worthwhile, but an important first hand document about the addictions, side-tracks, and possible answers along our often unmarked road we call life

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Light on the Trees

Light on the Trees, Original Photography by Adan Lerma

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namaste – con dios – god be with you


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4 Responses to “Kara-Leah : “Elephant Journal Article : ‘Getting out of my mind: drugs, yoga, meditation & me'” – a Complex Review”

  1. Kara-Leah May 11, 2011 at 12:42 am #

    Adan that’s one hell of an article review you’ve written!

    You have a most excellent way of dissecting something without leaving the reader feeling like bits & pieces have been left lying all over the table!

    A couple of points for clarity’s sake.

    The mind makes a terrible master and a wonderful servant… so it’s not my intention to toss out the mind in any way. It is an incredible tool when put to work well. The heart and mind must work together entwined as a figue of eight is entwined.

    And when I speak of the heart, it is not so much of emotions or feelings that I am speaking, but more of the deep knowingness that resides within.

    Writing as a woman, I hadn’t thought to include gender-neutral examples, or at least some specific to both men and women. I shall be more mindful next time!

    I was surprised to see you thought my experience of Kundalini was far up the totem pole as such… I don’t know if it’s possible to discern “how” enlightened one is – a little bit, a lot, mostly?

    It’s hard too, to know what it’s like to be anyone else now… people who still eat junk food and watch TV and go to the mall and work a job they hate. Not that any of those things are bad per se… it’s just that once you’ve experienced a moment of Awake… even when you fall back down into ego-mind again, the memory of that experience remains and the old ways can never satisfy.

    I thought your thoughts around why the article had the impact it did were spot-on, and am very grateful to you too for laying these out in the manner you have.

    What you said about the headline was interesting too…

    My experience of psychosis was of a Mind-taking over, and my experience of drugs was one of escaping my Mind, with all it’s limiting beliefs and judgments, hence the article title.

    Which brings us right back around to the Mind being a worthy servant and a terrible Master!

    All up, great review, love reading it, and it’s left me with some more to muse.

    Blessings,
    Kara-Leah

    • yoga-adan May 11, 2011 at 7:05 am #

      kara-leah, thank you so much for your response, i truly appreciate it

      i kept delaying posting my review ’cause, one i was so slowly working my way through it ;-) but two, also because, as i expected, you kept releasing new pertinant posts on the topics you covered in your elephant journal article, and i wanted to include what i could of them as reference

      your image of the mind and heart as one that “must work together entwined as a figue of eight is entwined” really appeals to me, and i do agree, there can be a “deeper” heart from which we all must tap and come from; i think of alice bailey’s ideas of our part of the cosmos under the influence of the second ray, the ray of love, as the dominant energy in our solar system, or of us as both a part and a part of the whole and the whole is the “heart-heart” – but those are just meager attempts on my part, for sure!

      from the little i’ve read about kundalini, i’m been impressed with most writers’ emphasizing that the chakra openings occurr in no particular order or sequence, so i didn’t quite express my feeling that, i think, a more layperson-orientated or beginner yoga/spiritual reader, might take your experiences as being pretty far up the totem pole of their (and my) own experiences, or at least an understanding of awakening, particularly as expressed as kundalini

      and i think your link in your article, “suggestions on what to do if you’ve had a kundalini awakening” to el collie’s article “kundalini signs and symptoms” was a great further clarifier, with the words, “individuals with variant religious beliefs are welcome to (and DO) tell about their experiences of this sort. Some speak of God, Christ, Goddess, the Holy One, Spirit, or simply a magnificent Whole in which we all partake.”

      again, thank you for such a thoughtful response –

      i truly believe your article on what you went through, the clarity by which you expressed yourself, and how you continue to expand with further articles on the threads from the originating article, is a tremendous vital service

      yes, blessings ;-)

      adan

      • Kara-Leah May 11, 2011 at 7:01 pm #

        Hey Adan,

        Yeah, “kundalini awakening” is a yogic term describing something which happens cross-culturally. Different cultures/religions etc have different language to describe the same experience.

        Many more threaded articles to come too!

        Blessings,
        KL

        • yoga-adan May 11, 2011 at 8:46 pm #

          looking fwd to them kara-leah ;-) thanks so much,

          adan

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