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A Minimally-biased Philosophy of Life: Kundalini Experiences

Note: This is not about the practices of "kundalini yoga" or "kundalini meditation." It is about the neuromechanical phenomena underlying kundalini experiences.

Kundalini experiences are a medically-documented set of psycho-mechanaical symptoms, some of which are as ordinary as joint-popping and some as frightetning (or enlightening) as thunderbolts through the spine. Taken together such experiences can be called a "kundalini awakening." The most sober medical book is Lee Sanella's "The Kubdalini Experience." A sober first-hand account of the process is the site Kundalini Awakening Testimonial . Because the sensations can be so unusual, severe, psychologically affecting, and inaccessible to normal medical discourse, sufferers often feel alienated and are sometimes even institutionalized. Unfortunately, the discourse on kundalini--even the most neutral accounts--refer to non-medical terms like "energy," "blocked emotions," "triggers," and so on, terms which scientists find frustrating.

That is a pity, because the experiences have a simple scientific explanation which can guide both sufferers and therapists alike. In this view, the sudden sensations and sounds of kundalini events correspond to sudden changes of motor strategy as the body's motor-map is slowly repaired. When, in the process of smoothing out a motor map, one strategy or force-geodesic is inactivated, the instantaneous and simultaneous release of the mechanical tension in thousands of muscle fibers can create audible sounds (pops, snaps, crackling, clunking often mis-attributed to the cavitation of synovial fluid in the joints), and corresponding sudden feelsings: stings, tugs, aches, or relaxations. The rearrangement of motor strategy corresponds to a rearrangement of proprioception, so that quite literally the brain does not know exactly how and where a given set of muscle fibers is connected. As proprioception improves, fibers become activated differently, and the sensations associated with them change. The most dramatic sensations involve the center of the spine, the most important mechanical corridor in the body. Typically powerful "releases" involve the sutures of the skull near the fontanel, the neck, the mid-chest, and the sacral spine. Changes in any of these places drastically affect vibration conduction along the myo-fascial sheaths, and thus the brain's ability to sense and control nearby muscles. The feel as if one's natural shape has changed.

When one's head sits differently atop the neck, one feels like a different person, because re-writing one's own body map and re-arranging one's own vertebrae is the very definition of a change of self-image. So each experiences in itself reflects a healing transition, even if it results in discomfort while the newly-recruited muscles gather enough data to become stable and comfortable. While the experiences feel like they occur in the joints and muscles, it is in fact the brain's motor-map--the virtual muscles--which are transforming. Kundalini feels like a physical process because it reflects changes in the sensorimotor system, but in effect all that is happening is that the brain is incrementally re-writing its own motor-control database. Feelings of enlightenment, understanding, control, one-ness, and such are the emotional and psychological states corresponding to the improved neuro-mechanical coordination. In other words, the spiritual insight mirrors mechanical computations.

This insight alone ought to reassure those who experience kundalini that the unusual and intimate aches and joys are in fact the natural, mathematically-inevitable result of learning better how to use one's body. The symptoms prove the nervous system works.