When Tony Cicoria was 42 years old, he was hit by lightning while standing by a public telephone. He initially had problems with sluggishness and memory loss following the incident, but an EEG and an MRI showed no unusual activity. In a few weeks, Cicoria’s strength and memory returned—and he went back to work as if nothing happened.
Just one thing, though: Cicoria also developed a very sudden desire to play the piano. Though he showed no interest in such an activity earlier in his life, it was now his Mission to study and play music.
Within three months of being struck by lightning, Cicoria’s life was mostly filled to the brim with playing the piano and composing melodies. He couldn’t help it. He kept hearing the music in his head. As he has remarked, “This was essentially given to me…by the other side.”
Cicoria is what’s known as an “acquired savant”—someone who develops savant-level skills following a central nervous system (CNS) injury or disease. Now, where did his new talent “come from?” Does a certain amount of electro-magnetic pulses through the body sort of “randomly” produce this effect within the human nervous system? Or, is it like the man himself said…it was just a gift granted from the mysterious “other side”?
Cicoria’s story brings to mind the concept of being struck by lightning as a spiritual metaphor. It’s the…energy of “God,” so to speak. Being downloaded to you “directly.” A parallel can be found with the idea of the kundalini awakening.
A kundalini experience, like that of actually being hit by lightning, is also somewhat unpredictable. A kundalini experience, if you are unprepared and don’t have any support, can really mess you up. Or: it could give you “sudden gifts.” Or both.
Spiritual awakening is often referred to in terms of lightning metaphors: “seeing the light,” “being struck by a big bolt from the blue,” and so on. In her excellent book The Reiki Manual Penelope Quest describes how Dr. Mikao Usui received the idea for the practice of Reiki:
At the end of a twenty-one-day fasting retreat on Mount Kurama Dr. Usui was apparently struck by a great light, and saw the sacred symbols (calligraphic shapes) he had discovered earlier during his research, and came to a deep understanding of those symbols, received a spiritual empowerment and achieved enlightenment.
Of course, Reiki itself is about taking energy into our bodies and also directing it to others. This is done not in a chaotic “flash,” but via a very structured process.
It should be remembered, however, that even though in the case of Cicoria it seems as if he had the gift of music fully handed to him in one shot—he still had to play. A lot. It is not enough to simply have the Gift bestowed to you by the big bolt from the blue. You—mundane, “ordinary” You—have to still give it shape and discipline. You still have to work with it.
Similarly, as I said before, a sudden kundalini awakening can really smear you across the sidewalk if you don’t have a handle on it. I had one about 15 years ago that felt like electricity was being shot through my spine. It made me literally leap from my chair onto the floor.
And I wasn’t prepared for it. It left me like a “smear on the sidewalk.” I was sick for almost two years, my nervous system feeling like it was burned out (tingling in my hands, feet, and spine).
How did I get a handle on it? At that time, I used what was most readily available to me: I had a Christian friend and got into a lot of that religion through her. And it worked: the mental discipline and order was there. I eventually moved beyond that into other types of spirituality, but it’s what I needed at the time. I needed a “shape,” a structure for all that energy.
But for everybody…these awakenings are going to be a little bit different. Some–most—not as dramatic as what happened to Mr. Cicoria. Some will use Reiki. Some will turn to traditional religion. Others will turn to other structures and shapes.
The metaphor persists.