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Why kundalini is a nightmare for some and a walk in the park for others

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Why kundalini is a nightmare for some and a walk in the park for others Kris 5/27/18 4:26 PM
RE: Why kundalini is a nightmare for some and a walk in the park for others Daniel M. Ingram 5/27/18 10:01 PM
RE: Why kundalini is a nightmare for some and a walk in the park for others Scott 5/28/18 9:41 AM
RE: Why kundalini is a nightmare for some and a walk in the park for others Billy 5/28/18 11:37 AM
RE: Why kundalini is a nightmare for some and a walk in the park for others Scott 5/28/18 7:42 PM
RE: Why kundalini is a nightmare for some and a walk in the park for others Stickman2 6/22/18 10:30 AM
RE: Why kundalini is a nightmare for some and a walk in the park for others Stickman2 6/22/18 10:26 AM
RE: Why kundalini is a nightmare for some and a walk in the park for others JP 6/22/18 10:35 AM
RE: Why kundalini is a nightmare for some and a walk in the park for others Stickman2 6/28/18 11:27 PM
RE: Why kundalini is a nightmare for some and a walk in the park for others JP 6/29/18 8:37 AM
RE: Why kundalini is a nightmare for some and a walk in the park for others Stickman2 7/1/18 8:02 PM
RE: Why kundalini is a nightmare for some and a walk in the park for others svmonk 5/27/18 10:08 PM
RE: Why kundalini is a nightmare for some and a walk in the park for others Che 5/27/18 11:23 PM
RE: Why kundalini is a nightmare for some and a walk in the park for others Wayne Conner 6/15/18 9:06 AM
RE: Why kundalini is a nightmare for some and a walk in the park for others Nigel Smith 6/21/18 1:01 PM
RE: Why kundalini is a nightmare for some and a walk in the park for others Kim Katami 6/21/18 3:45 PM
Ever since my spontaneous awakening occurred during my first therapy session eight years ago, I often wonder why this ever happened to me? 

Despite the beautiful openings that seem to be some kind of portal to the depth of my soul, most of the time I live in a type of  internal nightmare that leaves me shaken and questioning why this is happening to me.

Even after almost eight years I struggle to get through the day, yet ther are a lot of people that this energy doesn’t awaken and they seem happy as a bumble bee. Talking about the beautiful flow of awakening and that you just need to let go and genuinely seem full of clarity and understanding. It makes me wonder what is the purpose of what has happened to me, is kundalini a blessing or some kind of curse? 

Yeah, the range of reactions to Kundalini phenomena is very wide, and how they can manifest, even in the same person, can vary widely across times, and how people react to these various phenomena can also vary widely, and we have no early idea why beyond handwaving and saying vague statements such as, "Ah, must be karma!"

To my knowledge, there are no known physiological explanations, reasonable models, elucidation of neuronal or biochemical pathways, or anything like that of value to date: if someone know of some, please let me know.

More specific to you, what is going on with you that is nightmarish? What have you tried to make it better? What has worked? What hasn't? What conceptual frameworks are you using to explain what is happening? Do they help?

Daniel

Hi Kris,

I can't say that I have ever spoken with anyone who felt that kundalini was specifically a blessing. That said, I haven't made an effort to seek out blogs and web sites by people who have had a kundalini experience, though I did read Gopi Krishna's book "Living with Kudnalini". I suppose there are people who practice kundalini yoga who specifically cultivate it and therefore welcome it, but most Buddhist meditation practitioners I've seen write about it or I've talked to about it (and I've really only talked with one person, in the late 90's a teacher at Spirit Rock) agree that it is a trying experience, but that ultimately it settles down.

My experience with kundalini is that I had an intense kundalini experience in a vipassana retreat at the IMS retreat center in Barre in 1996. At the time, I was a tokudo (priest) ordained Zen monk, but my teacher wanted me to practice vipassana because she thought it a better match. I was sitting a weekend retreat per month at my teacher's center, and two 7 day retreats per year. I lasted for a month and a half in the IMS retreat, but had to leave because the kundalini was so painful, made worse by a herniated disc in my thorassic spine. The kundalini lasted for around 5 years, until 2001. For part of that time, I had to meditate at retreats lying down, but even that didn't help. Sometimes, it felt like lightening in my veins (to quote one of my favorite trance songs).

It's hard to ignore when it feels like your body is getting electrocuted, but I decided some time around 1999 that basically I was kind of cultivating it. It made me feel "special" and that something extraordinary was going on. I also got two 10 series of structural integration ("rolfing") which moved my muscles in my abdomen and elsewhere back into the position where they should have been. As soon as I began to just accept it, mostly ignore it, and get my body in shape, the intensity died down. Over the years, it's morphed into prana, a word I prefer to the all purpose New Age "energy". The prana arises at various times, but it stays for a while and goes away.

Sometimes, I can tap on the prana in various ways. For example, lately, I've been studying Tibetan Mahamudra meditation. One recommended practice is to separate the aversion around pain from the energy generated by the pain. If you can do this, the energy just flows up and out through your hands and legs or up your spine. Sometime the pain goes away, but in any case, the intensity lessens and it becomes just another unpleasant sensation, not something that is happening to "me". So after an hour and a half on my bicycle in 60 degree weather, when the arthritis in my sholders gets pretty intense, I use this.

Anyway, I'm kind of rambling here, but I hope this helps.

Consciousness is a wide open space, and we are each a sliver of consciousness trying to know itself. To the process of life a healthy individual is just as interesting as a badly broken one. The opinion of the human caught in the middle isn't very important to the process of evolution, which is constantly experimenting, despite the wails and shrieks of the silly human.

When the Kundalini shakti awakens she can travel in interesting ways. She responds to our life as it is. Modern life with LED screens, wifi signals and what not certainly affects the Kundalini process.

A while back I grew very weak in my energy body due to excessive energy healing that I had been doing. At my weakest I was also the most sensitive to Kundalini, so I had retreated to a hut in the rural countryside, with little to no cell phone reception, or wifi, and I remember my energy body would pulse and shudder everytime the slowly rotating ceiling fan made a turn. Even the EMF radiation from a fan motor some five feet away from me was being felt by my energy body. I found it more comfortable to stew in my sweat than keep the fan running.

I have since made huge progress in my health due to a few deities who visited me, who reset my system. What I have also been doing is surrounding my living space with consecrated energy objects, so my Kundalini system has a known good reference point.

It is not going to result in a very original end product, but unless one is an expert carpenter or willing to train to become one, assembling an Ikea flatpack is going to be a better idea anyday than trying to begin with raw lumber and learning to wood work.

Similarly with Kundalini we can mimic an energy form for quick results. The idols in the temples in India are energised, and they represent a known good Kundalini state. So too with a Guru who you stayed in service of all the time, so you could soak in the perfected energy.

I found placing these two objects in my altar in my bedroom, and spending time meditating in front of them, and generally remaining within their constant presence during the day and night has a good training effect on my system. It has helped my energy body grow remarkably quickly, like a support structure helps a plant with a weak stem grow tall.

1. https://www.ishashoppe.com/USA/dhyanalinga-yantra-copper
2. https://www.ishashoppe.com/in/yoga-temple/consecrated/linga-bhairavi-gudi.html

I keep constantly adding such stable energy influences in my life so that my system has something to lean on. Good luck.

RE: Why kundalini is a nightmare for some and a walk in the park for others
Answer
5/28/18 9:41 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
The best neurological model we have at this point is mostly at the level of a working hypothesis--kundalini phenomena, like most upheavals resulting from meditation, result from disregulation of some inhibitory function of the nervous system. Kundalini in particular is connected with decreased inhibition of the sympathetic nervous system and sometimes other noradrenergic and adrenergic systems. These govern the fight-or-flight response and are implicated in mood disorders (e.g., depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorders). 

Much of the nervous system works on the basis of mutual inhibition or more complex mechanisms that keep the mind and body in dynamic balance and allow for highly refined and coordinated actions. (Think of the fact that all of your muscles have some tone to them, and are never perfectly relaxed. Opposing sets of muscles are therefore pulling in opposing directions even when you're perfectly still. That opposition can be very strong and balanced, as when you tense all of your muscles, or much less intense, as when you are standing or sitting upright, but relaxed.) Meditation of various sorts may allow you to slowly relax both sides of a balanced pair of systems. Upheavals, such as kundalini syndrome, may happen because the effort or tension is not relaxed symmetrically or smoothly enough.

Back in the 90's, I had several people turn up who had kundalini symptoms of various intensities and constellations. The first line of defense was to sit them down and feed them a lot of comfort food--meat, potatoes, vegetables, bread; plenty of starch and fat, coupled with a little bit of alcohol. The New Agey explanation for why this worked was that it "lowered their spiritual vibration levels and lured the goddess Kundalini back to sleep." The neuroscientific explanation was that it let the fight-or-flight sympathetic nervous system settle down and activated the parasympathetic nervous system.

The other methods that often worked were:
  1. Visualizing the kundalini energy as fire coming up the central channel and melting a white or pale golden drop at the top of the channel, slowly releasing an oil-like fluid that cooled the fire. This is the method that Hakuin used to resolve his kundalini crisis.
  2. Identifying places where the energy felt "blocked" on the way up, either at the base of the spine, at the level of the heart, in the neck,  at the occipital knot at the back of the head, or at one of the two fontanels on top of the head. The blockage could be mentally smoothed out or encouraged to dissolve, and the energy would be released that way. Once reaching the top of the head, the energy could be encouraged, visualized  or allowed to run down the front of the body like a three-streamed waterfall down to the center of gravity near the navel, to the genitals, or all the way around the body to the base of the spine. This is the method of the microcosmic orbital of Taoist inner alchemy.
  3. Identifying places in the periphery where there seemed to be blockage or where unpleasant sensations were very strong. The method of mentally smoothing out the disturbance often worked here as well. Sometimes, it helped if a second person pressed a finger against the point at which the blockage felt strongest, in the manner of a masseuse pressing on a muscle knot until the knot releases.

Scott:
The best neurological model we have at this point is mostly at the level of a working hypothesis--kundalini phenomena, like most upheavals resulting from meditation, result from disregulation of some inhibitory function of the nervous system.

That’s the most down-to-earth explanation of so-called “kundalini” symtoms that I’ve ever read. Do benzodiazepines have any effect on “kundalini” symptoms?

I don't know. That wasn't something we ever tried, and I've never heard of it being done, but it might work.

I guess I must be one of those lucky people on the opposite side of the spectrum because I've had multiple Kundalini experiences over the past several years - big explosions up the spine, chakras spinning in various parts of the body - and for the most part, it hasn't bothered me too much. There were a couple of months where it felt like I had an electric current running through me that got pretty intense, otherwise I haven't found it to be that earth shattering. 

I don't know if it makes a difference but one thing I do when things like this come up in my practice is to try to remain as detached from it as I can. Cling to it and it becomes another story that props up the self. Push it away and you're creating more aversion. Be curious but indifferent to everything that arises. 

First of all - I have no experience personally with activated kundalini, however have studied the theoretical material considerably. Kundalini activation through a long slow yogic training process (with a teacher) allows one to anticipate problems and solve them through well practiced yogic locks. Students might study and train (prior to activation) for years if not decades in anticipation of kundalini sushumna. These days kundalini activation can happen through the slightest dharmic practice, or through physical trauma (difficult childbirth, car accident, near-death experience). Cyndi Dale advertises a unique three-stage gradual activation process, as well as offering a trouble-shooting kundalini healing service (see her website). Good authors covering kundalini understanding include Tara Springett, Francesca McCartney, and again Cyndi Dale. Gopi Krishna activated kundalini on his own and spent 10 frustrating years seeking relief ("Kundalini - the evolutionary energy of man") and Mary Rabyor wrote an autobiography about her own very difficult kundalini ordeal, offering her own unique path to wisdom (although in my humble opinion, her wisdom is suitable only to her particular path and problems. Still, she offers a great deal of facinating detail). Cyndi Dale (again, in my humble opinion) seems something of an energy master (so many books!) and a bit of a kundalini self-taught geneous. Tara's book is excellent general information.

Best of luck with your path - Nigel

Hello.

There is 1. kundalini which usually refers to the coiled energy close to the base of the spine and 2. prana which is spread out the whole energy body/mind. The first is very subtle and cannot be manipulated by exercises, the second is gross and can be manipulated.

I've had many experiences with both, both in- and outside of the spine. The thing with those strong, explosive, hot and unpleasant sensations is that they are prana, not kundalini. Kundalini is sweet and tender, very subtle, energy of the buddhanature and it doesn't produce unpleasant sensations. 

Regardless what the problem is vipashyana/emptiness meditation and insight is helpful. When things, also energies, loose the self-charge in them or related to them, it becomes a smoother ride.

RE: Why kundalini is a nightmare for some and a walk in the park for others
Answer
6/22/18 10:26 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
"To my knowledge, there are no known physiological explanations, reasonable models, elucidation of neuronal or biochemical pathways, or anything like that of value to date: if someone know of some, please let me know."

I'd like to know this too. After years of taking in theory about chi, channels, nadis etc., I'm unconvinced that these old energy models describe anything but the nervous system.
Granted that old methodologies may be revealing properties and structures of the nervous system that are not recognised by science yet.
So if anyone has any good quality sources comparing modern physiology with traditional energy systems please drop a title. Maybe another thread for this would be more appropriate but I ask here in the spirit of usefulness for sufferers too, thanks.

Nice, are there any reading materials for this ?

RE: Why kundalini is a nightmare for some and a walk in the park for others
Answer
6/22/18 10:35 AM as a reply to Stickman2.
"To my knowledge, there are no known physiological explanations, reasonable models, elucidation of neuronal or biochemical pathways, or anything like that of value to date: if someone know of some, please let me know."

I think I have the start of an answer for this, which I originally wrote up as a comment on a recent Slate Star Codex post. The references to "predictive processing" refer to a scientific theory that Scott Alexander summarized in a few different posts: 1, 2, 3.

I think that you can explain this with a combination of the predictive processing model and analogies to insight meditation. I think the resulting explanation also applies to the stages of insight meditation from Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha(MCTemoticon and stuff like Kundalini phenomena as well.

So the basic predictive processing model says that there’s a process of reconciling different predictions between top-down predictions with bottom-up sense data. At first the top-down model just overrides the bottom-up sense data. Each time the bottom-up data is surprising, this releases some small amount of a neurotransmitter. Eventually some cumulative threshold is reached and the top-down processing neurons starts noticing that they’re encountering errors and surprising information. They start to try to adjust their output to try to accurately predict the bottom-up data, emitting some slightly different neurotransmitters in the process. Eventually a combination of the right neurotransmitters and developing a better model of the world through trial and error allow both the top-down and bottom-up models to come to a mutually agreeable and consistent view of the world, and the basic phenomenon isn’t surprising anymore.

The basic premise of insight meditation is that most people’s top-down priors about their subjective experience of the world are incredibly wrong, in ways that are hard to understand until you’ve paid close enough attention to the details of your subjective experience. This includes stuff like believing that you’re a separate agent interacting with an objective reality, that objects continues to exist in your subjective experience even when you’re not thinking about them, and just generally that everything is way more solid and long-lasting than it actually is. Insight meditation or psychedelics are both methods for directly experiencing that that’s not true and changing your top-down and bottom-up models of the world.

Insight meditation follows the basic predictive processing model of trying to reconcile erroneous top-down perceptions to noisy/surprising bottom-up sense data. The difference is that insight meditation involves huge swathes of the brain, and that it involves having hugely surprising and improbable experiences. That adds up to megadoses of neurotransmitters being released, with the exact mix of neurotransmitters depending on where the brain is at in the process of reconciling top-down versus bottom-up data. The experiences of insight meditators can thus have a common similarities in how they’re experiencing the world, since the sequence of neurotransmitter release and surprise-reconciliation strategies changes in a predictable basis. This is the basis for the Progress of Insight stages that Daniel Ingram writes about in MCTB. When it comes to the states in concentration meditation, I like Leigh Brasington’s article on the neural correlates of the jhanas, which are a set of commonly-experienced states in concentration meditation. I haven’t read Surfing Uncertainty, but I’d bet that there’s a lot of overlap in the neurotransmitter sequence from the predictive processing model and in Leigh Brasington’s sequence of neurotransmitter evolution. And there’s definitely an overlap between the insight stages and the concentration states — Daniel Ingram discusses a mapping of this in his chapter on the vipassanna jhanas.

So what does all of this have to do with HPPD? Well, I beleive that predictive processing says that groups of neurons that consistently come up with surprising information get rewarded and listened. And insight meditation says that our priors about our subjective experience of the world are extremely wrong, and that the reality of what’s going on is extremely surprising. This difference between our current priors and reality means that any parts of our brain that know the right way to look have an abundance of things to point out as really surprising. And each time they point that out, they get rewarded with neurotransmitters and being listened to a little more carefully.

Under normal insight meditation conditions where someone continues practicing and is doing so deliberately, this happens mainly from the viewpoint of the person who is meditating, and they feel like it’s under their conscious control. But in the case of HPPD there’s no reason it couldn’t be a rogue group of visual neurons deciding to continually point out visual snow, or to point out that their perception of the wall changes many times a second based on new neural pulses. And in the case of Kundalini phenomena, there’s no reason that the neurons behind a basic physiological drive like lust or hunger can’t suddenly say “Wow, if I pay attention to the impermanence of sensations in this insight-meditation-like way, then I can constantly reap the rewards of lots of dopamine.” I like Kevin Simler’s discussion of this in Neurons Gone Wild, from his excellent blog post series.

Hi JP, thanks it's an interesting chat about HPPD. I'm not a neuroscience geek so there are some new concepts for me there. But kundalini is supposed to be a phenomena involving the spine, shouldn't we start there before talking about neurons ?
Vagus nerve ?
How much is the idea of it being coiled up at the base of the spine an inconsistent myth ? And is the notion that it's coiled three and a half times at the base of the spine based on anything, or is that just one of those analogies that develops it's own life over time ?

RE: Why kundalini is a nightmare for some and a walk in the park for others
Answer
6/29/18 8:37 AM as a reply to Stickman2.
How much is the idea of it being coiled up at the base of the spine an inconsistent myth ? And is the notion that it's coiled three and a half times at the base of the spine based on anything, or is that just one of those analogies that develops it's own life over time ?

I buy the "coiled at the base of the spine" thing on a personal level.  I had an experience a few months ago where I was falling asleep during the A&P and entered a hypnagogic body scan state.  Poking around near the base of the spine I had a distinct feeling that there was something coiled there and that not only was paying attention to it was very blissful -- but it actually seemed to be looking back.  I pulled away from investigating it since so many people on here have reported Kundalini problems and didn't want to kick off something extreme.

My general stance on stuff like this is that spiritual traditions with good maps and highly attained practitioners tend to really know what they're talking about when it comes to understanding what will happen in our subjective experience.  So if they unanimously agree that Kundalini is coiled at the base of our spine and will eventually flow up and down through all the chakras then I'd tend to assume that they're right.  I'm less certain when it comes to their assumptions about the physical basis or location of what's going on -- that's the sort of thing that would have to be sorted out by careful neurological research that no one really seems to be able to study yet.  It also might be worthwhile to differentiate full-blown Kundalini awakenings with the energy rising from the base of the spine from the laundry list of phenomena that are considered to be caused by Kundalini(spontaneous mudras, head rolls, eye blinks, etc.).  

Something like the head rolls could be small groups of motor neurons noticing that moving in a certain way disproves some of our mind's assumptions about the stability/permanence of the sense of self in the head.  I think the Kundalini energy at the base of the spine could be more at the level of a complex drive like lust -- only instead of looking for something out there in the outside world, it discovers that it can start looking at all sorts of stuff on the "inside".  

Without doubting the importance of the experience to you, but putting my sceptical hat on, my question is - why is this just in Indian yoga theory ?
As with a lot of energy body theory we seem to have adopted the Indian view partly because of a lack of anything similar in cultures (like the Western one) outside of India.
I mean, why aren't people spontaneously describing things coiled around the base of their spine regardless of whether they read anything about kundalini or not ?
I know there are vague sort of parallels drawn between Indian yoga theory and the experiences of people in other cultures, but there doesn't seem much to go on that would suggest that people independently discover this coiled serpent aspect - correct me if I'm wrong.