The most psychedelic thing that ever happened to me was during a group meditation. My wife and I were invited to a Deeksha Giving session in Eugene, Oregon in 2007. I had been a sort of an off Soto Zen guy for years, but at the time I didn’t know much about Kundalini, Shaktipad, or Deeksha, as it was called in this case.
We went to a very nice five bedroom house in the suburbs of Eugene. There were about ten other people in the living room when we arrived. My wife and I had been living in Japan for the past four years and didn’t know anyone other than our friend who had organized the meditation session. I had no idea what to expect. Some Kirtan was playing in the background, a sitar, warbling singing, and some chanted Mantras maybe, nothing I recognized at the time. We all sat on a large L shaped white leather couch.
Our friend and the other Deeksha giver asked us to close our eyes and relax and meditate in whatever way we felt comfortable doing. I was sitting in half lotus slowly counting my breath. I felt hands touch the top of my head. And then…..
Behind closed eyes, I saw wild blue ropes of energy shoot from my hands and the top of my head.
Waves of heat shooting up my body caused me to mildly convulse. Suddenly, involuntary deep breathing pulled the energy up my spine. And this wild energy snake uncoiled into spectacular visions; The Buddha’s face in go
ld, a rainbow pulsing from my solar plexus; the “I” melted into the indescribable and exploded into simple whiteness.
Calmness descended. Bathed in the knowing, I sat there smiling.
Afterwards, I went up to my friend and said,
“Wow, who needs drugs! "
I asked him about my experience, but he just said that it was great that I’d had it and to keep meditating.
Since he was also from a Zen background and because their attitude towards these sort of things during meditation has always been, “Ignore the fireworks and keep meditating,” I assumed this is what he meant and went back to my old meditation routine once my wife and I returned to Japan.
But during my 20-minute daily meditation sessions, I was having strange blissful sensations and my body would writhe and jump around on the zabuton making it very hard for me to continue the stoic breath counting style meditation technique I had been practicing for years.
I considered seeking the help of a Buddhist monk. Since I live in Japan there are of course plenty of both Soto and Rinzai temples as well as many others here which offer meditation classes. I had never had a formal teacher when I was in America. Instead, I read a lot of books and would occasionally pop into one of the various meditation groups in my college town to sit. I liked the Soto and Tibetan group the best because their meditation technique was the easiest for me.
The weirdness of my meditation sessions was getting worse though and I knew I would either have to find some help soon or quit meditating.
On February 5th, 2008 the Maharishi Mahesh, the founder of Transcendental Meditation, and also the guy who was famous for briefly being the Beatles’ guru died. At the time I was teaching at an English school in the city I live in. My desk was next to another English teacher who I didn’t know that well, but I knew he was British, and that he had grown up in the 60’s and liked the Beatles. Actually, I should say he loved the Beatles. So I casually mentioned that I’d heard that the Maharishi had died assuming he would know about his somewhat infamous connection to the Fab Four.
He immediately told me that he not only had heard about the Maharishi’s death but that he’d actually been to his ashram in India in the 1970’s and that he had studied Yoga in India for 4 years. I was fascinated hearing about his experiences and told him about what had happened to me in America that summer.
That’s when I learned that I’d had a Kundalini Awakening.
Up to that point, I had no idea that that was what had happened to me during the Deeksha meditation session. We talked for a while about Kundalini and he explained to me that I needed to find a guru now that my Kundalini energy was active.
At the time I didn’t think finding a guru was something you could do very easily. I considered looking into Shingon Buddhism since I knew it was one of the more esoteric branches of Japanese Buddhism. My friend convinced me that I should find a teacher that knew about Kundalini instead. There were some Yoga studios around, but none that really dealt with Kundalini. But I was determined to learn as much about Kundalini as I could, so I started researching it on the internet and I asked my friend as much as I could every time I saw him at work.
After about a year of study and daily meditation, I asked my friend about how I should go about finding a guru. He advised me to go to Australia and meet his teacher.
So in March 2009 we traveled to the guru’s ashram near Melbourne and stayed there for about three days at around $150 for a cot in a run-down old house. We meditated every day for about 1–2 hours and visited with “the guru” several times to discuss our spiritual practices and experiences.
When I told him about my Kundalini awakening he was very surprised and said that for some reason the Shakti energy had decided to reach out and grab me. He also said that it was no coincidence that I had met my friend and that we had come to Melbourne to meet him. He told me that I should continue to meditate, practice Yoga, and serve others in whatever way I could. When I returned to Japan I tried my best to follow his advice.
I had some reservations about “the guru” though because I’d researched his past a little bit and found out that his “guru” had been involved in some serious scandals.
And there were accusations that he had been kicked out of the organizations for sexual misconduct.
Even after the founder of the organization had died there was a weird power struggle between two of the swamis that were supposed to take over the ashram that involved kidnapping, death threats, and inappropriate sexual relations to put it mildly.
But I put my concerns aside and committed myself to following this person and dutifully doing the meditation techniques he taught as well as buying many of his books and reading through them over and over thinking that I would gain a deeper understanding of what had at this point radically changed my life.
I spent the next seven years as a devotee, traveling to Australia once more to do a week-long meditation retreat, dutifully watching the teacher’s weekly online Satsang, and trying to practice his system of Yoga as best I could in Japan.
And I did have some pretty amazing experiences. I spent 21 days in something the Yoga traditions call the Turiya State.
On Oct. 28th 2009 I read a passage in a book titled, “The Doctrine of Vibration” that basically said
“Shiva is everything, everything is Bliss”. Suddenly, I realized that if everything in the world is Shiva and Shiva is Bliss, then everything must be Bliss.
At the moment of that realization the entire room where I was reading became filled with bliss. All the objects became vibration of deep bliss and joy and part of me. (Later on I would realize how appropriate it was that I was sitting on the toilet at the time).
For 21 days after that I experienced everyone and everything as bliss and joy. Imagine being in a great mood every waking moment because everything seemed to be this ecstatic joy radiating from within you. This was what it was like for me for that entire time.
After the 21st day the bliss slowly began to wear off and I eventually returned to a normal state of mind, though I could still access that intense bliss and joy if I concentrated on it.
Another odd occurrence that began happening to me I called night visions. For about a month every time I would lay down to sleep and close my eyes I would feel a strong tingling almost like electricity in the center of my brow just above my eyes where the Third eye or Ajna Chakra is supposedly located.
As soon as the tingling started I would start having strange visions of alien looking worlds and sometimes other beings.
I also felt like I was flying sometimes. I never spoke with the aliens or made contact, but sometimes it did seem as if they were aware of me.
During this entire time I was wide awake. The night visions would usually last about 10–30 minutes. After they were over I would stay awake for another 20–30 minutes thinking about them. The visions lasted for about one month and then after that only came occasionally, maybe once or twice a month. They were always interesting and pleasant and I looked forward to them. And of course these coupled with the Turiya State I had experienced made me think that I was making rapid progress, that I was well on my way to achieving enlightenment.
In March 2010 I returned to the ashram in Melbourne for a week-long meditation retreat. During the entire week I felt amazingly energetic. Despite the fact that I had a cold, I literally felt 20 years younger during the entire time I was there. I practiced meditation 2–3 hours a day, attended Yoga and meditation workshops, ate vegetarian food, and read a lot of spiritual books.
On the 6th day we had an evening lecture and meditation with the teacher.
I had the usual kriyas (involuntary body movements) and blissful sensations, but after the meditation my eye sight became extremely sharp and clear.
I felt like I had a new set of eyes. My eyesight has always been good, so it was strange for me to suddenly have this weird super vision. Before I left for Japan I went in to say goodbye to the guru. He didn’t say much, but he kept asking about Yoga in Japan and if I thought Shaktipad and Kundalini Yoga would be popular there.
He didn’t come out and say it, but I felt like he wanted me to try and recruit followers when I returned. I was pretty disappointed because I hoping to discuss my progress and get some advice about all the things that were happening to me.
When I told him I didn’t know if Shaktipad or Kundalini would be popular in Japan or not he suddenly stood up and said he had to meet some one to have lunch. It felt very much like a brush off to me.
When I returned to Japan my son was born in November of 2010, so I wasn’t able to visit the ashram again, but I continued to practice and occasionally corresponded with the teacher by e-mail. At this point I was having delusions of grandeur and actually envisioned myself as not only obtaining “enlightenment”, but also becoming a “guru” as well and eventually starting my own ashram.
I felt frustrated because I was having all of these experiences which the various spiritual books I was reading all described as strong signs that I had achieved or was at least very close to achieving enlightenment .
I had described all of these experiences to the teacher and was hoping for some recognition, but he would only say things like, “That is very good.”, but never explain in detail what any of it meant or really provide me with much encouragement or guidance. The typical “dangle the carrot” technique of con men I later found out.
Then in December of 2014 everything at the ashram blew up. It came out that the “guru” had been secretly having affairs with several of the married women at the ashram all the while maintaining for decades that he was a celibate swami. And even after he publicly admitted to the affairs he at first tried to explain it away saying, “This has always been a Tantric tradition,” indicating that his affairs had been of a “spiritual” nature and not simply the actions of a horny old man taking advantage of his position of power at the ashram.
At that point I pretty much gave up on the whole thing. I figured if a guy like that who supposedly achieved enlightenment in 1972 could fool that many people for so long then it’s probably all bullshit.
I decided it was no better than the fake martial arts masters that had fooled everyone until MMA came along in the 90’s and showed what a bunch of crap it all was.
I can’t say that it was all bad though. I do cherish the amazing psychedelic experiences I had. I wrote and eventually published a novella based on many of those experiences.
And I have maintained a strong meditation practice, though a secular one now. I wish though that the scientific community would step up and provide some better explanations for what causes these experiences.
When it first happened to me I did look for a possible medical or scientific explanation. Partially because I was half afraid maybe I’d somehow done permanent brain damage to myself. But I didn’t find any articles (until much later) that really provided a very satisfying explanation. And seeking out answers in online forums and Reddit usually just resulted in people telling me it was all in my head as if it were nothing more than a mundane dream.
But these experiences do happen to people and they are often life changing.
The problem I see though is that when people have them and then attempt to find answers from the medical or scientific communities they are told, like I was, that the tremendous psychedelic experiences are little more than meaningless background noise bubbling up in the neurons. And like me they probably find their way to, I’ll be polite, the traditional explanation. Though some of them may have the best of intentions and I’m sure and may do some good in the world, a lot of them are also full of sociopaths and spiritual used car dealers who will try and take as much from their followers as they possibly can.
Ten years after my initial experience I luckily stumbled upon this article on Medium which explained a lot of the questions I had been wrestling with for a decade.
Had I read that article in 2007 or even a little later I could have saved myself a lot of wasted tail chasing and simply gotten on with a good solid and beneficial secular meditation practice instead.
About the Creator
Steve Howard's self-published collection of short stories Satori in the Slip Stream, Something Gaijin This Way Comes, and others were released in 2018. His poetry collection Diet of a Piss Poor Poet was released in 2019.