Spiritual emergencies can take several forms, including kundalini awakening, a spiritual opening turning one’s world upside-down and inside-out, a dark night, wounds and trauma surfacing to be healed, a “dry period” of lack of interest in the world, or more.
These spiritual emergencies may happen “out of the blue” without any prior spiritual practice (as it did for me), or they may happen as an apparent consequence of a spiritual practice – whether this practice is a form of meditation, yoga, chi gong, shamanic practices, or prayer of the “true” or “dangerous” kind (for awakening, be shown what’s left, etc.).
So just as a medical doctor will inform a client about possible side effects of a medicine, especially if these side effects are common and can be severe, it’s good practice for a teacher of any spiritual practice to inform the students of possible side effects of their practice.
To me, it seems reasonable to – at the very least – offer….
A map of the terrain, including (i) the typical phases and facets of the process, and (ii) common and less common forms of spiritual emergencies and their symptoms.
And guidelines for how to navigate this terrain in general, and spiritual emergencies in particular, in the most skillful way possible.
Knowing the map will help students recognize the symptoms when they occur, and see that they are common and even to be expected. It helps prevent or reduce an additional layer of distress, bewilderment, and either inflation (f.ex. kundalini awakening) or thoughts that something “went wrong” (f.ex. in a dark night).
Practical pointers can also be invaluable. For instance, how do I prepare to reduce the chances or intensity of a future spiritual emergency? And if one happens, how do I relate to it in the best possible way? How I ground myself during a kundalini awakening? How do I help see through the distress of a dark night?
In addition, being open and frank about this up front has several benefits. It may help some students decide that a particular practice is not for them, at least not at this point in their life, and they may chose something else that’s gentler and more grounding. It gives the students an idea of how well the teacher knows about and understands spiritual emergencies, so they can chose to go to them – or someone else who is more experienced – before a spiritual emergency takes place, or if or when it takes place. And having more information about these matters out in public makes it easier for people who have a spiritual emergency “out of the blue”, without any prior practice or interest in spiritual matters, to find information, support and guidance.
In terms of education, it seems reasonable to include information about the spiritual terrain and spiritual emergencies in the school system, and in the training of medical doctors, psychologists, priests, and – obviously – teachers of meditation, yoga, chi gong and similar practices. It is already happening, to some extent and in some places, and it may be more widespread in the future, especially as there is more research in and public knowledge of this topic.
A warning about side-effects
Prescribe med w known side-effects, obliged to let them know
Same if lead people into meditation, chi gong etc. – let people know what can happen (and will happen for many)
– spiritual emergency may happen anyway
– in any case, good to know about
It’s common sense that a doctor prescribing medicine to a patient will inform him or her about possible side effects, especially if they are relatively common and can be severe.
Various forms of spiritual practices – meditation, yoga, chi gong, prayer – can also have side effects. So it’s helpful if teachers let students know about what may happen, and what often happens, for people engaging in them. Spiritual emergencies happen, and although they often happen without any prior spiritual practice, they may also happen within that context.
What are the possible symptoms? What can be done if they happen?
Pointers for how to relate to a particular form of spiritual emergence or emergency happens can also be invaluable. For instance, how do I ground myself during a kundalini awakening? How do I help see through the distress of a dark night?
In addition, being open and frank about this up front may help some students decide that the practice is not for them, at least not at this point in their life. It gives the students an idea of how well the teacher knows about and understands spiritual emergencies, so they can chose to go to them – or someone else who is more experienced – if or when a spiritual emergency takes place. And it gives them some advance knowledge of what to do, and how to best relate to it, should a spiritual emergency happen.