My son asked whether I thought Christmas was a religious or secular holiday. I knew where my atheist son was going with this. I cut him off saying I thought it could be anything you wanted it to be. And I do stand by that. I fully recognize that many celebrate Christmas as the birth of a savior. Most of them quietly worship in their churches, but others are a bit more vocal like a neighbor who posted a sign about putting the Christ back in Christmas (the sign courtesy of the Knights of Columbus). I grew up with the more secular version of Christmas focused on goodwill and gift-giving.
One of the big differences between being in Belgium and being back in the US, is that the US really does get into its holidays, religious or secular. If you didn’t have a calendar to point out the holidays in Brussels, you would never know there was a holiday since there were no overt external signs of any. But here, I walk the dog around the neighborhood every day and I see the Christmas decorations. More decorations on my street than in the entire city of Brussels. I love it! Individuals dedicate time, effort, and money to do this. And I love it! Trivial? Waste of time? Effort? Money? Maybe…
The last few days I’ve been paying attention to the kind of decorations that predominate. How do my neighbors view this holiday- religious or secular? Do the decorations tell a story? I probably pass sixty or more houses on my daily circuit and only three have overt religious items (2 nativities and 1 cross). The rest are predominantly lights, garlands, wreaths, reindeer, snowmen, and assorted popular blow-up characters. And Disney characters and flying pigs aside (yes, someone has one and there is a dragon too!), I do wonder if all this decorating has much to do with the Christmas story at all.
Perhaps, it’s all about the time of year. A time when nature hides, dies back, goes dormant. When we as humans are denied visual stimulation through color and form. In the starkness and stillness that is winter, we are called inside to quiet. And that call can be frightening, unsettling. And yet, it calls from the unconscious. To counter this we become busy and decorate the things around us as comfort to get us through the dark, cold winter. We bring trees and stars inside. The macrocosm calling to the microcosm, stop hiding, be still, wake.
Below is a link to this year’s conference on kundalini. Kundalini (the rise of serpent energy) has been linked to spiritual awakening and is seen as a natural progression of human development. It is personal, cosmic, and evolutionary. Anyone “on the path” should have some understanding of this phenomenon. Once, it was believed only those in ashrams and monasteries had these experiences, but now more and more people are reporting spontaneous kundalini occurrences. The speakers provide lots of insights, personal experiences, and resources. Especially interesting (to me) was the talk on current research into measuring subtle energy and developing those devices that may change medical treatments. This should be of interest to anyone practicing energy medicine/healing. Currently 1000 energy healers have undergone a variety of testing of their abilities which (eventually) will lead to certification standards. Dig in! Share your thoughts.
Creativity and Your Yearning to Express Yourself by Teri Degler
“Love, begin the song, and let me hear how well you sing.” Mechthild of Magdeburg
In The Divine FeminineFire, Teri Degler explores the similarities and differences of the divine feminine expressed in Shakti (Hinduism), Sophia (Christianity), and Shekinah (Kabbalah). She examines ancient and suppressed texts leading to some fascinating insights. The reason to explore these traditions is made plain by the need for understanding in our own time of the awakening going on in us and around us. Degler asserts that it is the divine feminine that is waking up, being ignited and transforming consciousness. The divine feminine is a creative force (not limited to the female gender, in any way) experienced in the human body as a birthright. This experience is one that exists along a continuum.
photo: Kinjal bose 78
To get a feel for the extreme of the continuum, Degler examines the lives of a 12th Century Christian Saint (Mechthild of Magdeburg) and a 12th Century Hindu Saint (Mahadevi Akka). She draws some appropriate parallels and calls our attention to the whole of the transformation being rooted in the body. The stories of five modern women are also given to show the other end of the continuum. There was a compelling discussion about Gopi Krishna and how we have no reason to think we have a good handle on understanding what the far extreme of this transformation would look like. Things like where do Christ or Buddha fall on the continuum come to mind.
Throughout the book, there are examples of what transformative experiences happen when the divine feminine is awakened. Again, these are on the continuum. The principle signs of transformation include mystical experience, paranormal abilities, and divine inspiration (inspired creativity).
The final chapter of the book is a call to live a balanced life. Whether we know it or like it, all of us are in the body going through transformation somewhere along the continuum. Creativity is the way the divine feminine is expressed and how consciousness is transformed. Many of us feel this call of transformation through our creative work and the whole of life can be viewed as creative expression.
The Biology of Consciousness- Case Studies in Kundalini- JJ Semple
This book has been on my reading list for a while. Although I’ve read books in the Eastern tradition on energy and Kundalini, I’ve never picked up a practical guide, so to speak. My background on the subject frames the rise of Kundalini energy in esoteric or spiritual terms. JJ Semple wants to get away from the notion of the spiritual and talk in terms of biology and evolution.
For him, a Kundalini awakening is essentially a biological process where consciousness expresses as an evolutionary force whose purpose is to refine and upgrade itself in a single lifetime. But it’s more than that because Semple believes the raising of consciousness can cause significant evolutionary leaps that can be passed on to subsequent generations.
Some esoteric traditions teach there is only one way to raise the serpent coiled at the base of the spine. Others outline a favored approach. This is where Semple’s book can be helpful. He outlines some of the many ways Kundalini can be triggered either intentionally or accidentally (that’s right- you can be minding your own business one minute and then yikes – what the ??). In fact, many people have had just that experience! They didn’t go looking for it, they don’t have an interest in anything spiritual, and yet it happens. Remember, Semple’s theory doesn’t require spirituality. He is talking about fundamental biology. If you are human, the life force waits ready for its opportunity.
Some of the case studies presented involve the raising of Kundalini as a result of meditation, Shaktipat (where energy is transferred from one individual to another), emotional crisis, sexual encounter, or eye gazing. Semple himself has experienced his own biological awakening and has chosen cases illustrating some of the differences and some of the similarities of what people go through. There are no advanced spiritual masters here; these are everyday people going through a life changing process. The book is immediately easy to relate to. Along the way, the reader gets a sense of how the rise of the Kundalini can be lived with and accommodated.
The book spends some time on the God versus no God arguments within society. Although Semple is an atheist, he thinks the argument gets us nowhere. He would like us to view Kundalini in terms of an energy continuum. Religion gets in the way of having this biological process seriously studied by scientists. Real work needs to be done. Real people are awakening all the time and there is a need to be able to guide them through the process.
Semple’s book is an easy read even if you know nothing about Kundalini. I hope it begins to open a dialogue among a wider audience. Highly recommended!
A cautionary note: Many spiritual traditions regard the raising of Kundalini as a dangerous endeavor. It is not viewed as being for everyone. Many have levels of initiation and recognize master teachers.