Saturday, December 17, 2011

Psychotropic medication recovery, Kundalini, and shamanic initiatory illness

Shaking, vibration, altered states of consciousness ranging from comatose to euphoric, extremely long periods of insomnia or hypersomnia, inability to tolerate eating, food cravings, headaches, nausea and vomiting, nightmares, suicidality, pain, heart palpitations, fear of going crazy, feeling tormented, terror, being bed-ridden, agitation, weakness, cognitive confusion, seizures, muscular rigidity, tingling, impaired vision, hearing unusual sounds, seeing lights, other hallucinations or visions, obsessive or impulsive behavior, rages, crying jags, severe depression, vertigo, seeming drunk without taking any substance, exhaustion, chills, heat, sweating, tendency to isolation and agoraphobia.

What am I describing?

a) psychotropic medication withdrawal / neurological recovery
b ) Kundalini awakening
c) shamanic initiatory illness
d) all of the above

The correct answer is d) all of the above!

Kundalini awakening and shamanic initiatory illness are both naturally occurring phenomena that were first observed and described many millenia ago. And they continue to be observed -- in more and more cultures.

Kundalini is an ancient Indian model of neuro-psycho-spiritual evolutionary potential in humans. The ancient Indians really mapped this phenomenon, kind of the way the ancient Chinese mapped the chi health system. However, this phenomenon has been described in many different spiritual and philosophical traditions throughout history, including Christianity.

Shamanic initiatory illness is a phenomenon with roots even further back in the mists of time, when humans drew their inspiration directly from nature (celestial bodies, elements, animals, plants) and ancestors, before the advent of gods. Again, this phenomenon has been described in isolated, indigenous cultures around the globe, suggesting that it is a universal human potential.

The syndrome is unpredictable in how it is precipitated, but toxic exposure is one of the possible factors. It often lasts for years. The symptom set includes significant mental and physical symptoms, and doesn't fit into any of the culture's recognizable illnesses. The symptoms are intractable -- that culture has no adequate treatment. The syndrome remits spontaneously and it is impossible to predict when it will happen. The syndrome does end.

What am I describing?

a) psychotropic medication withdrawal / neurological recovery
b ) Kundalini awakening
c) shamanic initiatory illness
d) all of the above

The correct answer is, again, d) all of the above!

Kundalini is a neuro-psycho-spiritual developmental potential that traditionally resides latent at the base of the spine until it is activated. It can be activated on purpose by spiritual practice, or by accident through physical or psychological trauma. Once it is activated, it involves a deep cleanse or purge of the body, psyche, and spirit. Psycho-physiological traumas from throughout the lifespan are repaired. The grueling symptoms listed above are merely the side effects of this repair process.

The final result is a rewired neuro-endocrinological system. The person who goes through the process and comes out the other side takes a quantum leap in health, happiness, peace, wisdom, sense of mission, and, potentially, "extended human capacities," or what we call psychic abilities. It's like being born again into a second life without actually dying in between. And it's supposed to result in a literally more evolved human being.

A shamanic initiatory illness is a transformative ordeal that either comes on unexpectedly with no known precipitating event or can be activated on purpose by spiritual practice. It shows up as an odd amalgam of mental and physical symptoms, as mentioned above; is typically very debilitating; and takes the individual to very odd and dark mental and physical places. Interestingly, the illness seems to create a field that affects family and friends around the sufferer, who sometimes go through their own tough times in parallel.

Most initiations seem to be involuntary and un-asked-for, and, consequently, resisted. Eventually, the resistance in broken down, and the sufferer agrees to be a shaman. Symptoms can remit quite dramatically once the initiate starts to "shamanize" in some way, such as performing healings (using herbal knowledge, psychic healing, or a combination) or divination, involving knowledge and abilities s/he did not have before the illness. Shamans are considered to be more advanced in their development or more evolved than people who have not gone through the initiation.

So, what does this have to do with us?!

Exposure to toxic 21st century psych meds, removal of the toxin, and recovery from the consequent neuro-endocrinological damage may be just the latest way that humans are being triggered into a transformative experience that re-wires them. It might be said that the transformation leads people back into who they were supposed to be before the oppressive influences of family and society pushed them off track. Or it might be said that the transformation leads people into what the collective unconscious or planet *needs* them to be right now for the commonweal.

In the last several years of observing people recover from these meds, I have noticed that as people recover they often report significant changes in how they view the world, the purpose of their lives, what's most important, etc. Many people become more interested in spiritual matters. Others become politically aware in a new way. Or environmentally aware. Some people become more intuitive or psychic. Almost everyone gets their eyes opened in some way, and becomes more of a critical thinker when it comes to accepting the word of the authorities.

So, horrendous as recovery from psych meds is, it's interesting to look at it as a transformative experience that may serve a broader purpose than we might have imagined and that fits into a very ancient framework about how rapid spurts of evolution may happen for individuals, societies, and civilization as a whole.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Gaia theory, neurological damage, and psi

There is an epidemic of neurological injury and disorder. 

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the signature injury of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, partly because improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are being used so effectively, and partly because emergency medicine is keeping more people alive with TBI than could ever have survived in the past.

Parkinson’s in young adults and neurodevelopmental disorders in children are also exploding, possibly due to overall toxic load from the environment and vaccine preservatives.  A huge increase in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s is coming down the pike in the next 40 years simply because of the aging of the population (Gregory Petsko TED talk).

The Internet has made it possible for patients to compare notes about incessantly prescribed medications, and discover that their medication is causing them neurological problems.  This is now widely accepted in regard to antidepressants, anti-anxiety meds, cancer chemotherapy, newer antibiotics, hypertension meds, and HIV retrovirals.  I suspect it’s just a matter of time before neurotoxicity is recognized in most of the other classes of medication.

At the same time, neuroplasticity has become a popular meme, and our understanding increases every day about how much healing, growth, and enhancement is possible, even in an injured, adult brain.  Tools and therapies are constantly being developed --brainwave entrainment, neurofeedback, music, memory games, etc.

Never before in human history has there been so much brain damage *and* so much brain training.  Why?  We’ve already mentioned some of the efficient (eg mechanical) causes, but what about the final (eg teleological) causes?  What is the purpose and how is it being driven?

Neurological damage is a profound shock to the body, psyche, and spirit.  It shoves people toward the kind of total make-over that often follows an NDE or spiritual emergency.  Not only do people re-make physical and cognitive dexterity, but they also usually re-make their worldview in the direction of emphasizing relationships, nature, and who they really are. 

Many psychics, mediums, medical intuitives, and energy healers have a history of neurological trauma, after which their psychic abilities expanded dramatically.

In short, neurological damage often leads to a shift towards humanistic values, environmentalism, becoming more truly yourself even if that means being unconventional or anti-corporate  ;), becoming more spiritual, more intuitive, and, sometimes very psychic.  These are the common outcomes of NDEs and spiritual emergencies, also.  I like to call neurological damage a slo-mo NDE.  As I have experienced myself, an old version of yourself dies, and a new, markedly different version comes into being.

What purpose might this wave of anti-establishment, humanistic, psychic unfolding serve?

Gaia theory consists of many hypotheses that range from the more conservative and materialist (eg microscopic organisms help maintain the planet’s temperature) to the more radical and metaphysical (eg the Earth and everything on it combine to form one conscious entity, such as Plato’s Anima Mundi).

We know the ecological system is dangerously out of balance.  We know the economic system is dangerously out of balance.  I’m sure you could think of a couple of other small problems facing the communitas….Could Gaia, the Earth’s consciousness, be orchestrating a dramatic rescue – pushing a lot of humans to get neurologically rewired but fast in order to save the planet before it’s too late?  Neurological damage is a rotten experience, but it does push adult humans to re-design themselves in a dramatic way that is hard to duplicate.

Is Gaia using our own destructiveness (war, toxic air and water, toxic meds) in the service of some sort of cosmic plan to force-march a lot of people into a quicker evolution?  As part of this re-wiring, forced-pace evolution, are we being helped to be more true to our original nature, more connected with other people, animals, and the environment, more spiritually and psychically open?  Could this facilitate the leaps in collaboration and creativity that we need for our own sakes and for the sake of the community?

Maybe it’s not Gaia per se driving this mass developmental push.  Maybe it’s the collective unconscious.  Or the Tao or the cosmic intelligence.  And, not everyone who undergoes neurological damage is going to get their own psychic TV show, but, together, we just might muster enough intuition to save Gaia.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The doors of perception???

A very intriguing new study at Notre Dame (, thanks to for the heads-up) suggests that walking through a doorway increases forgetting.  Regardless of whether subjects walked through a doorway in a virtual reality, this reality, or walked through a series of doors that brought them back to the original room, they were all more likely to forget the decision involving an object that they’d made in that room than subjects who walked a comparable distance without passing through a door.

The researcher Gabriel Radvansky interpreted the results as suggesting that “[e]ntering or exiting through a doorway serves as an ‘event boundary’ in the mind, which separates episodes of activity and files them away,” and impedes one’s ability to retrieve thoughts or decisions made in a different room.

This is surprising to me because the neurofeedback and meditation teacher Anna Wise trained people to increase their theta brainwaves by visualizing moving through, into, over, under, etc. -- taking any kind of path that involved a lot of changes.   This is supposed to help you access repressed memories from the personal unconscious, as well as creativity, and intuition.  I have found that just listening to theta brainwave entrainment CDs – even without visualizing – will lead to “theta-esque” dreams with lots of traveling through, into, etc.

So, how can we reconcile this apparent contradiction between the two researchers?

One possibility is that passing through a doorway decreases memory for unimportant things because it redirects the mind to more pressing, personal material.

I’d like to see what happens if subjects are asked to write about an important personal memory in one room, and then walk through a doorway.  I'd also like to see what happens if they retrace their steps back to the original room by simply reversing course, and undoing their odyssey.  That condition wasn’t tested.

Here’s another thought.  One of the conditions that seems to facilitate spirit contact is driving in a car.  This may be because it induces a light trance state (theta?).  It certainly involves moving through space a lot, and crossing various scene boundaries.  So, hypothetically, just walking through a door does a light version of something similar – not only separating events, but inducing slowing of brainwaves.

As my friend Barbara says, it’s a bit of a koan – You go into a second room.  You can’t remember what you had wanted when you were in the first room.  What do you remember in the second room?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Left Hand of Darkness

A recent Wall Street Journal article (Shirley Wang, 6 Dec 11) reviewed the current conventional view that left-handedness puts you at higher risk for disorders such as ADHD and schizophrenia. 

The reason for this supposedly has to do with brain lateralization.  In right-handers, language processing takes place mainly in the left hemisphere, and since language is such an important function, this gives the left hemisphere a certain overall “dominance.”  This is also true for 70% of left-handers.

However, 30% of lefties “appear to exhibit either a right-dominant or distributed pattern.”  This is supposedly what puts them at risk, because “[h]emisphere dominance is typical and more efficient.  Symmetry, in which neither side is dominant, is believed linked to disorders….People with schizophrenia, for instance, exhibit more symmetrical activation of their brain hemispheres…”

On the other hand, the article also mentions that “[t]here is some evidence that lefties are better at divergent thinking, or starting from existing knowledge to develop new concepts, which is considered an element of creativity.”  And six of the last 12 US presidents have been lefties!

There’s so much we still don’t understand about brain lateralization.  Is it evolutionarily protective to have two potentially separate and interchangeable hemispheres?  Like having a back up hard drive, that can be re-programmed if the other one fails?  And what is the evolutionary advantage of crossover – the right hemisphere controlling the left side of the body?

But I really question whether brain symmetry is a problem.  The consciousness training Monroe Institute, the energy healer Bill Bengston, and many, many others suggest that greater synchronization within the brain, including hemispheric synchronization, yields expanded human capacities such as anomalous healing, OBEs, remote viewing, etc.

It may be true that there is a higher incidence of left-handedness in the schizophrenic population, but what does this correlation really mean? 

In my experience, children raised fully bilingually are sometimes slower to begin mastering language, but later catch up and are enviably bilingual.  And from reading many autobiographies, I’ve learned that highly psychic children are at risk for mental distress *if their psychic abilities were maligned.*

Likewise, left-handedness and hemispheric symmetry may be more complex to master (like bilingualism) or produce unconventional perception and behavior (like being highly psychic).  You can see how this differentness is a risk factor for mental distress if it’s not responded to well by the environment. But you can also see how this differentness holds great potential for being unconventionally creative, perceptive, and contributory.

And don’t even get me started on the idea that schizophrenia may be a psychic opening gone wrong.  That’ll be for another post!  ;)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Brain more active when unconscious

In June 2011, a team of researchers from the University of Manchester reported to the European Anesthesiology Congress in Amsterdam on the first real-time brain scan of a person shifting from awake to anesthetized.  They were able to make the scan because of the invention of the compact, portable Functional Electrical Impedance Tomography by Evoke Response (fEITER) device.

The 1-minute video is stunning because it seems to demonstrate that brain activity actually increases as a person becomes unconscious --

The researchers interpret this increase in brain activity as an increase in inhibition – the brain is actively tamping itself down.

But, perhaps there is another way of interpreting these images.  Perhaps the anesthesia (propofol!) is disinhibiting consciousness, causing greater brain activity.

OK, obviously a certain aspect of consciousness *is* being inhibited – waking, beta-dominated consciousness.  But, in one interview, Brian Pollard, lead investigator, said they could see the unconscious patients’ visual cortex working when he Pollard appeared in their frame of view.  He said:  “The patient is lying still and quietly and there is some activity in the right hand side of the brain, what we suspect is the visual cortex.  We observed in the brain the patient seeing me.”

How is that inhibition or tamping down of neurological activity?!  On the contrary, it demonstrates that neurological activity, perception, and some aspect of consciousness are independent of being awake.

Consider the fact that we now know that people often hear, see, understand, and/or remember what happens while they are under anesthesia.

In another interview, Pollard says, “What we’ve got supports the idea that there are several levels [of consciousness] rather than [an on/off] switch.”

Some people have OBEs under anesthesia.  So, it seems worth investigating whether this particular anesthesia inhibits obvious, waking consciousness in such a way that it liberates or potentiates other aspects of consciousness which are currently considered anomalous, but which are probably a perfectly normal part of life.

Put another way, we may be repressing / inhibiting many capacities while we are awake and under the influence of systemic familial and societal pressures to conform.  These inherent anomalous / psychic / non-local capacities may flourish when we are “unconscious.”

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The physical, the spiritual, and the tertium non datur

What is the point of having neurobiology and psi?  If one can theoretically experience everything in a state of pure consciousness, then why bother with a nervous system and body?

Living at this physical level of reality for awhile must serve an evolutionary purpose for the individual and the whole.  Also, interaction between those in the body and those in spirit may also serve an evolutionary purpose.

Jung used “tertium non datur” to describe the situation where two powerfully opposed realities are held in consciousness together until there arises an unpredictable, “irrational,” transcendent, new way of living.

David Sunfellow wrote recently on his NHNE-pulse site:  "The purpose of life is not to leave this world by entering higher states of consciousness, but to get more fully immersed in the world and bring higher states of consciousness into the created universe."

Rob Breszny wrote in his book Pronoia (2005):  “... that despite superficial appearances to the contrary, all of creation is on our side; that the very structure of reality ensures our eventual liberation from suffering; that life is a divine conspiracy to awaken us to our god-like nature and become co-administrators of the divine plan for evolution. (p. 18)”

Every level of reality closes some doors and opens others, in order to foster our development to greater consciousness and love – for ourselves and for others.  This physical level of reality seems to make greater the likelihood of forgetting our essential nature as consciousness / spirit, so there must be unique benefits to re-integrating that awareness.

A friend of mine recently wrote:  “I believe that our greatest discoveries are usually never in the obvious range but rather, are come upon, unexpectedly..... .......unanticipated and when they do reveal, it is a life altering experience….As you know, our greatest struggles push us into places we would never go otherwise and we usually enter those places with great fear which takes great courage but usually results in great clarity, discovering parts of ourself that we never knew existed. Great empowerment comes from such and thus, greater freedom from the past as well as a great respect and love for oneself and towards others.”

So, while, theoretically, one could experience anything in a state of pure consciousness, would we?  First of all, change and growth are hard; familiarity is very addictive.  But, also, how can you choose to work on parts of yourself that you don’t even know are there?  To some extent, this must be thrust upon you by coming up against another consciousness.

So, why bother with a nervous system and a body?  At first glance, it looks like life with a physical brain limits our capacity to be conscious and we must live within those limitations while here in the body.  But, another friend Barbara questions this, and thinks it may turn out that we are not limited by the brain at all – we know there is so much we still don’t know about the brain.

Re-integrating the physical with the spiritual despite the challenges of physical life serves an evolutionary path to greater consciousness and love; is a prime exercise in discovering parts of ourselves we never knew existed; and creates a third thing that has never existed before.

David Sunfellow also wrote:  "Finally, while classic enlightenment experiences lead one to believe that there is nothing new under the sun — that the Ground of Being is all there really is and It is eternal and  unchanging — I’ve also come to believe that brand new experiences, on all levels, are actually unfolding as we (and the created universe) evolve. While this is plainly obvious on the physical level, I think it is also true on the spiritual level."

That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.  :)