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Letting Go Of Identity and The Levels Of The Suṣumṇa

by Swami Khecaranatha

Letting go of identity is one of the fundamental aspects of spiritual growth. In our practice, we can view the progression of that transformation in relationship to penetrating deeper and deeper into the levels of the suṣumṇa. So let’s begin by exploring those dimensions of the suṣumṇa in order to understand how accessing them would affect our sense of identity.

There are four dimensions of that central channel. You can think of them as being like a telescoping antenna, one dimension/extension with the next. What most people call the suṣumṇa is actually the outermost channel that goes from the base of the spine to the center of the eyebrows—to the ājñā cakra. Cakras are located at the points where the energy channels known as the iḍā and piṅgala cross the suṣumṇa. Although we often say that there are “seven cakras,” there are in reality only six, as the crossing of those major channels stops at the ājñā cakra.

DT man four levels of sushumnaCR.jpgLooking deeper within, the next, more subtle dimension of the suṣumṇa, known as the vajra nāḍī, goes to the center of the head. Subtler than that, the citriṇī nāḍī reaches to the top of the head, and the brahmā nāḍī (what I call the Divine Thread) extends to the space twelve inches above the head, to dvādaśānta. That is the cosmic space from which we are birthed.

When manifesting as individuality, the autonomous power of consciousness (svātantrya) gathers itself into the energy of kuṇḍalinī śakti, and that creates the central channel. It manifests first as a streak of light, and the physical form in the human embryo grows around that. That primitive streak is the brahmā nāḍī, which is not only the subtlest channel of light, but the channel of Consciousness.

In our practice, we develop the capacity to internalize our energy—our pranic life force—and channel it into the suṣumṇa. That energy begins to create the dynamic flow in us, down the front and up the back, primarily to the center of the eyebrows.

In terms of identity, at this stage there’s no shift away from, “I am me and this is happening to me,” which is the essential perspective of individualized identity. But we do begin to experience a dynamic energetic flow within us, and that is very different from what most people experience in their lives. Most people are so far projected outside of themselves energetically that they have no connection to the very current that has given them life and sustains that life.

Connection to flow is a fundamental foundation in any practice that focuses on the ascent of kuṇḍalinī. It is a demonstration that we have internalized our life force. As we establish ourselves in that flow and tune in to the ascent of energy that’s moving through all the dimensions of the suṣumṇa, there’s also a release of a deeper consciousness within us. Consciousness and energy are never separate. The same unbounded consciousness that bound itself into individuality is never separate from its own power to manifest and, ultimately, to reveal itself. And because we are that kuṇḍalinī, that gives us the same power to recognize our own source.

As we truly develop the subtlety of consciousness to feel the flow of energy inside, we start to feel the subtler current within that, which is first experienced as it moves to the center of the head. And then, if we become more adept and—most importantly—more deeply surrendered in stillness, we can perceive that dimension of the suṣumṇa. Now, not only are we experiencing the energetic flow, but there’s also a release of an inner knowing that takes place as we develop our capacity to be centered in the center of the head and the crown. With time, as we live in the center of our head and become established in the liberating current that is always existing within us, our attachment to our identity begins to be dissolved. That’s a significant shift because what binds us to our identity is our attachment to it.

When we function from ego and mind, we’re absorbed in our limited identity, which reinforces itself and keeps us stuck there. But as we come in contact with a more refined level of energy within and establish ourselves in the center of the head and crown, then we’re capable of freeing ourselves from the identity of ego. We move away from a separated, egoic identity to the non-separated identity that we call puruṣa, and we experience and function from knowing we are an individuated expression of the Divine. In terms of the tattvas—the levels of consciousness, from infinite awareness down to physical matter—puruṣa is well above the egoic level and is only reached as we surrender all the mental and emotional constructs that are the structural blocks of ego.

Another factor in letting go of our identity are the granthi, or knots, in the psychic body. These granthis are in the base of the spine, in the heart, and in the center of the head. They are the coalescence of all our patterns, tensions, and karma, and they block the energy from ascending. It is the granthi in the center of the head that ultimately must be dissolved before the energy can rise up to the top of the head and to dvādaśānta. Even though we may have some experience of the energy moving to the crown, that’s very different from being established inside that current, and that generally only happens once the granthi are dissolved.

As kuṇḍalinī does open the trap door of the granthi, our individuated consciousness can ascend to universal Consciousness. The subtlest aspect of kuṇḍalinī is the Goddess Parā Kuṇḍalinī, and she lives in the base of the spine, in the core of ourselves, as well as in the space above our head. The liberation of kuṇḍalinī is the rejoining, the merging of that vital force that has descended and created us, back to its creator, Śiva. Living in dvādaśānta establishes us in the direct recognition that we are Śiva. While there may still be a body and a personality, there is no individuality that’s bound within separated consciousness.

It is possible to become so still, from the moment of our first effort, that we connect, and are absorbed back into the divine thread—but that very rarely happens. And so, there’s a continuum of refining our awareness. The effort shifts from “I’m making an effort,” to “I’m surrendering to this śakti,” to “let me just be this śakti.” It is the śakti that really does the work of allowing us to let go of separated identity. But although the energy is doing the work, we must be aware of what it’s doing, both with the energetic channels and how that is expressing itself in our lives. It’s always a conscious allowing and a conscious letting go of our identity.