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This page covers some more esoteric topics relating to the the hormonal/endocrine system.
The table below is a subset of the hormone releasing glands, with a mapping to the chakras. Glands that do not exactly match with the chakra centres include the hypothalamus and digestive system.
The pituitary gland is the control centre for the endocrine system. It is also the point between the eyebrows that yogi’s concentrate upon when meditating. It is sometimes referred to as the Queen gland, as she is the ruler of all the other hormonal glands in the body. The King is the Pineal gland.
The Hypothalamus is the interface between the Limbic brain (the nervous system) and the pituitary/endocrine system, and it is the hypothalamus that instructs the pituitary to start secreting hormones.
In the Limbic brain, the epithalamus is nearby, and it contains the pineal gland. The pineal gland is light sensitive, and secretes melatonin into the blood stream which regulates our sleeping cycle. Contrary to some beliefs, the pineal is not the seat of the soul or gateway to superconsciousness. You do not need to de-calcify your pineal gland!
The Kundalini energy that is said to arise from the base of the spine during meditation. The spine has both sympathetic and parasympathetic nerve connections – mainly sympathetic in the middle, with parasympathetic connections at the top and base. Some reflex twitches can occur as the body quietens during deep meditation and comes in to balance. Twitches/spasms and little jolts can occur, particularly with the parasympathetic connections to the sex organs at the base of the spine. These muscle spasms may be accompanied with a sensation of energy rising up the spine to the inner brain. This is not a imagination. It isn’t common, and generally occurs with people who have been meditating for a period of time.
Meditation is helping to bring the body back into a state of balance, and a connection is established between the brain and the base of the spine. This is analagous to completing an electrical circuit; with an unbroken connection for signals to travel out of the brain down the spine via the parasympathetic pathway and back up via the sympathetic. As the autonomic circuit comes into balance there can be a better connection for the somatic (sensory) nervous system connection between the brain and the base of the spine – resulting in a feeling of energy rising up into the brain. Most people live the vast majority of their lives in a state of imbalance, so the experience of achieving balance of the nerve pathways is unusual and worthy of note. It doesn’t necessarily result in instant enlightenment!
The Kundalini energy is often symbolised by a serpent or dragon and it equated with the root chakra. Killing or achieving dominance over the dragon (one’s own sexual energy of the root chakra) is the first initiation step in many ancient traditions. Sometimes this is shown as a serpent or dragon in a belt around the practitioner, with the serpents mouth holding the tail to show mastery over the force – see Tarot card picture opposite. Mastering the sexual energy is not an easy accomplishment.
Synesthesia is a phenomena where stimulation of one sense leads to it being experienced in another way. A common example is to perceive letters and numbers as having colours, or hearing some everyday sounds as having different colours. The condition is fairly rare, but given that all sensory inputs to the brain are processed by neural networks it isn’t surprising that there can be “cross-talk” or interference. We can also learn to process some sensory information differently, as blind people do in order to compensate for the loss of vision. I am highlighting the phenomenon because some people report hearing sounds or seeing colours (or scents, or tastes) during deep meditation, and many teachings explain that certain sounds and colours are associated with certain chakra centres.
There is a plausible mechanism for this experience. When the attention is focused internally we do not have a normal sensory mechanism for describing activity within the different body organs and glands (and the corresponding chakra centres), so when such input from the autonomic nervous system reaches the sensory interpretation area of the brain, sounds and colours result. Not everyone experiences this during meditation, and vivid experiences are more likely to be an indication of trouble (ie high activity or stress in the areas of these chakra centres, often an over-excited sexual centre) rather than enlightenment. The Om sound is what is naturally heard when there isn’t stress or over-activity in nerve pathways elsewhere in the body.