Kundalini Rouses (excerpt from my forthcoming novel, Even the Breath)

“There he is! Attila, you tramp, I can’t leave you alone, can I? One minute you’re with one girl … I barely turn my back, and there you are, curled up beside some stranger and groaning like a Swedish porn-movie star! Excuse my wolf, Ms. Did he use fang-persuasion to pressure you into petting him?”

Grenadine yanked her hand away from between Attila’s ears. She shook her feet dry and gathered her socks and boots. “He came out of nowhere and just plopped himself down. I could have sworn it was a dog.” She glanced at the wolf’s balding pink belly. With his head raised off the ground and his tongue hanging out the side of his mouth like a cartoon K.O., Attila shot Anastasia a reproachful look.

“Don’t you blame me, Mister. I couldn’t turn you into a Pomeranian even if I wanted to.” Anastasia watched Grenadine lace up her boots, then she hop-scotched her way across the creek like a schoolgirl. Her bare breasts bobbed up and down.

Grenadine tried not to stare, and failed. Long locks tangled around the crone’s head like a snake’s nest. White folks with dreadlocks peeved Grenadine. It wasn’t enough to wrench us from our land and toss us about this one to eradicate our bonds, language, meaning. Now they have to ape our roots? But trying to sound civil, she said, “Ruben said you wanted to meet me?”

Absorbed in whatever transpired below the surface, Anastasia squatted down by the creek. The old witch had no trouble keeping her feet flat on the rock and the bounce in her knees, the long fingers interlaced on the end of her stretched arms, gave her a pubescent air. “Me, want to meet you? Why would I? He told me you were dying to meet me.” Anastasia found a stick and drew figure eights in the water. “He had to do quite a bit of convincing, I must say.” She blushed a little and threw the stick in the water. Both women watched it scuttle downstream.

With no visible effort, the crone stood up. Grenadine stood across the creek from her, barely beyond arm’s reach. She had on one boot, and was holding the other in her hand. The legs of her pants were rolled up and darker where they’d gotten wet. There were goose bumps on her calves.

“How do you think you got here?” The crone sounded defiant. Grenadine was starting to like her. Wrinkly at the base, her boobs drooped low, but round, and proud, and hypnotizing. It made Grenadine want to palpate them, like exotic fruit at the Asian market.

“I see,” Grenadine says. “He played us.”

Anastasia’s sudden smile cleared up all the shadows that the fast clouds had been hurling at the ground, and the temperature rose notably. Attila startled Grenadine when he leapt across the stream to come standing next to his mistress.

Hopping on one leg while struggling to boot up the other, Grenadine looked like she might fall. “He said you could help,” she said. Anastasia gestured for her to sit down. The rock felt snug at her sit bones, and Anastasia lowered herself down too.

Some people move the way others sing. There is no monotone. Everything lilts, even in the straightest of lines—a wink in the hip, a vibrato in the shoulder—and you, too, are suddenly pulsating, just from watching them. Anastasia was one of those people.

“Bring your palms together in front of your heart.” The thrum lived in her voice, too. It spread all the way into the rock under them. And when she closed her eyes, Anastasia’s paintbrush eyelashes lengthened toward the throbbing water.

There we go. The old hag is going to make me atone for my sins, Grenadine thought. She shifted in her seat, yet did what she was told. Mmmh, what is this, this yielding without feeling like I’m giving in?  

“You have been given the opportunity to learn and practice this technology of self-elevation as a dispensation of Grace in answer to the longing of your soul. Use it to strive for progress, excellence, expansion, healing.” Anastasia’s timbre was gravelly, like it came from below the creek’s bed. “Press your palms together. Touch your thumbs to your chest. Roll your shoulders back. Lengthen the back of the neck. Breathe.”

The words lulled Grenadine inside the body she’d spent most of her life tugging about with as rarefied an awareness as possible. She began to sense a warm glow undulating up and down her spine. It called to mind the jellyfish exhibit she’d once seen at the Aquarium in Monterey Bay. The fish tanks had been framed with ornate gold frames and, with the room in complete darkness but for the glow from the tanks, the monstrous morphed into a sublime work of living art. Delicate blue and red threads veined the fish’s translucent bodies. Life is electric, Grenadine had realized. She’d tried to tell her sister, but by then Evangeline was on six Vicodin a day and non-reactive. So Grenadine had written the thought down in her notebook. It seemed she might want to go back to it sometime. She hadn’t, so far.

“Kundalini is one of the many names for creative energy, primal force, élan vital. This vital impulse is always dual. She is Shakti, the manifesting power of the universe flowing from spirit to matter. In her reverse flux, she flows back to her source, in spirit. Through Kundalini’s flow, matter and spirit—the gross and the subtle—manifest as opposite ends of a single continuum: as One.” As she said this, Anastasia’s entire body began to throb. Grenadine couldn’t tell if it was the motion, the words, or some invisible drug in the air they breathed, but she started to feel—what should she call it? Ease?

“Close your eyes,” Anastasia continued. “Roll them up and in to the third eye, the eye of intuition, of inner knowing. Go within. Let this be your own experience. The path of Kundalini is the path of return to the higher self. On this path, the body becomes a participant in spiritual awakening, a conduit to energies of a high spiritual nature. Your subtle body holds the key to your victory, Grenadine.” Grenadine didn’t understand what the crone was saying, but she didn’t mind. She just wanted her to keep going.

“Now, bring your hands to your knees and begin to circle your navel around, counter-clockwise. This is the direction of self-initiation. Ignite yourself! Stoke the fire at your navel. Remember to breathe. Remember to remember. Wake up. Wake up. Wake the spinal juices pooled at the base of your spine!”

Grenadine’s racing thoughts slowed down, but it wasn’t like fatigue, when the mind has to wade through molasses of frustration and numbness. She felt herself growing taller, and crisp; her spine loosened as it reached for the holes in the clouds.

“Now, come back to center and circle around the other way. Notice the field resisting this new direction—this new choice you have made. Now notice the resistance easing up as you commit to your new direction.”

For a split second, Grenadine blinked her eyes open—an old hyper-vigilant reflex. Modeling the posture, the crone was making love to the ground, but there was nothing obscene about it—none of the awkwardness or self-consciousness: just bliss. Grenadine decided she wanted whatever Anastasia was having. She closed her eyes, and kept grinding.

“Plug your sacrum, that sacred tail, into the Earth. Imagine your spine is drilling down into the rock, down through the water below, and the sand, and silt, and gravel, deeper, deeper into the fiery core of the Earth.”

The creek thumped. Anastasia’s words wove in with Grenadine’s heartbeat like a safety net into which she could collapse. Paradise is, perhaps, to be defenseless without feeling threatened. Thoughts sprung from another part of Grenadine’s, a part she’d thought dead but that was coming back to life now—the only part of her capable of this experience: perfect, untouched innocence. Could it be that it has never left me?

“Back to center, begin to flex your spine forward as you inhale, and round back as you exhale. Keep going. Do not fear hearing yourself breathe. Breath is life. Breath is pure vitality. Move. Rustle in the wind. You live by your breath and you die by your breath.”

Shuuu, thump, ta-tum, ta-tum, shuuuuuuuPuff of life asserting itself like a suitor. Chest balloons, wings shooting out, respiration of water rush, aspiration. The guide inhaled, exhaled. All was quiet and breath, like a cello solo exhuming arpeggios from the silence.

Just when Grenadine was sweatily pumping her left foot behind her raised buttocks to the intoxicating groove of Anastasia’s cheering, Ruben appeared from behind the crone’s boulder. Attila stirred to make some room next to Anastasia, and Ruben sat down like a perfect yogi, legs crossed, chest out, chin impeccably level with the ground. He took a moment to center himself, then came right down on all fours to pump his leg behind him, twirl his arms, and pump his navel along with the women. He and Anastasia were in sync, radiating the kind of eye-of-the-storm serenity exhibited on the cover of self-help books. Maybe it was the crazy amount of deep breathing, or something about the fast-paced rotation of her limbs, but Grenadine had to admit that she was feeling more alive than she had since she’d gone canoeing with her family at Tickfaw Park and bonked a napping alligator on the head with her oar.

Anastasia led them beyond exhaustion, to the place where pleasure and pain meld. They lay down on their backs, palms up.

“Relax … Relax and let the healing begin. If given half a chance, the body will repair itself on its own. Like you—like every thing and every process—your mind-body-soul seeks homeostasis—perfect, dynamic equilibrium. Give it that chance now.” Anastasia’s voice was reaching Grenadine in sheets through the bubbling of the brook. “Open up to the experience of the infinite in the finite. You are not a human being having a spiritual experience, you are a spiritual being having a human experience.”

With the pulse of the water under her rock, and the pulse of the fire under the water, Grenadine saw herself spiraling up a funnel of light. Up and up she went, slowly flapping her indigo wings—the exact hue of the umbilical cord that had once tethered her to plump Gaia.

“Ask for what you need. Ask for anything. If not now, then when? What are you afraid of? Why hold back?” Anastasia’s words opal crisp.

If not now, then when? 

Convulsions seized Grenadine’s midriff. Don’t hold back. Gaia’s gray eye, blind with infancy. Grenadine’s father’s gray skin, so close that the pores are planets, the man is a galaxy. The parachute at Grenadine’s solar plexus palpitates like jelly fish in a Michelangelo frame. Inside her abdomen, the tornado rises and falls, rises and falls. Gaia’s tummy is warm marble against her cheek. Don’t hold back. Grenadine’s arms are glued to the rock, but her legs! Her legs are free and mighty. Grenadine kicks, so hard her hips bounce back. Kick, bounce, kick, bounce, kick … Rhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa Don’t hold backRhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa … Her father’s severed head drops, blood gushes … Her wings! Blotches of her father’s blood on her wings. The stains grow and blossom into Anthony’s face, a flash of his gorgeous smile and then the strain of selfish sex, the O mouth of orgasm. Noooooooooooooo … Grenadine shakes her head no. Her pelvis follows, no, no, noooooooooooooo, and collapses.

Easy, the breath slides down and across the chasm of her solar plexus. A golden spiral gently pulls Grenadine’s awareness deeper into the subtle, the exquisite non-space behind her navel. Three slender beings await there. Neither male nor female, but Enoki mushroom-like in their togetherness, they radiate. Grenadine is positive that she’s never seen them, yet they know her completely.

“Of course,” they explain, “You are of us.” The knot between Grenadine’s shoulder blades lets loose, like a ballerina’s bun after the concert. Her tears tickle inside her ears.

Then why? She wants to know. Why did you let him?

In chorus, they emit, “Because your soul wanted to know. So you could help others.” Sarcasm comes to mind, then dissipates. Grenadine’s fingers and toes begin to stir. She’s confident that she’ll know what this means, later. Deep breath in, deep breath out.

Steady, Anastasia’s voice trickles in. “Bring your arms above your head for a nice, long stretch. Fold your knees into your chest, and give yourself a nice hug here. I love you, I love you. Hold under your knees, and begin to rock-and-roll, rock-and-roll forward and back on your spine, then all the way up to sitting.”

Still following instructions, Grenadine touched her palms together in front of her heart. There was a world of a difference between how she felt now—who she was now—and who she had been an hour ago.

“And to seal the energy of our practice, we will sound together the mantra Sat Nam. It means Truth is my name. Truth is my identity. The truth is inside of me. In truth, we are one. Take a deep breath in … Saaaaaaaaaaat—” Their voices linked. Anastasia’s, brightest, vibrated at the brow. Ruben’s curled up around it—a spoon. Grenadine’s lay underneath—a low, flat bed, but swelling like the tide. Off to the side, incongruously, there was teeny crystal—Carla? Attila howled, and their collective “Naaaaaaaaam” wound up one unified hum, pulsating from within each of their chests.

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