February 18, 2002
The Healthy Convulsion
Shivering, shaking, yawning, sighing, sneezing, belching, farting, vomiting, sobbing, orgasm, birth labor, belly laughing, jumping with fright, yelling in pain.
What do all these things have in common?
These actions are all involuntary muscle reflexes or natural convulsions. They are the group effort of thousands of cells working together in a series of wave-like contractions. Other involuntary activities include digestion, breathing, heartbeat, sleeping - in essence, the functions of all organ systems - including the cells of the brain.
With the help of very few thoughts, billions of cells have trillions of interactions, and keep us alive 24 hours a day. Thinking is really nothing more than the patterns created when the cells of our upper cortex (neurons) do their own type of involuntary reflex action in response to the activity/messages of other groups of cells in the body. Neurons pass electrical signals and various neurohormones to each other in a "community" interaction that is recognizable as a thought.
A thought is like an image on a huge message board. The board is made up of thousands of individual light bulbs that can blink on and off. Seen as a whole, they can create a pattern that resembles, for instance, the image of a human face. There is no face there. There are only blinking lights. It's an illusion. Similarly, when we picture a face in our minds, there is no face there. It's just an illusion created by the pattern of "blinking" brain cells.
Thinking is only part of the life of the community of cells that is our whole self. Life is a multicyclic communication with no beginning or end, where body cells, living their lives, affect one another in constant waves of innate intelligence and wisdom.
Here's an example:
A community of cells called "me" is doing very hard work. After a while, these cells require more nutrients. They respond, and this wave, or message, is received by the cells in the brainstem. The reaction of the brainstem cells is what is sensed as hunger. This cellular message-wave is then passed to the cells of the mid-brain. The reaction of the mid-brain cells is what is felt as agitation. This cellular message-wave, in turn, continues on to the cells of the upper-brain (upper cortex). The reaction of the cells of the upper cortex, as a group, is what is perceived as a thought word ("I'm hungry") and a thought image (a sandwich). This cellular wave continues on to various muscles of the legs and arms, and the body (as a whole group of cells) gets up, makes a sandwich, and feeds itself. Every moment, this group of cells called "me" performs stunning feats of constant co-operation. There is no separate "I" that controls it. "I" is just an idea or thought - the "wave" of a bunch of brain cells.
This natural arrangement works well, as long as people can be true to themselves and get what they need. Unfortunately, human children are unable to get their needs met by themselves and are in great danger if they are neglected or abused. When a baby needs to be picked up or fed, the hurting cells signal for the need to be met, and the lungs and throat cells create a cry. All of the cells keep calling until the pain becomes too much. Then the cellular system reacts by breaking off the pain signal to the brain by electrochemical means. The screaming baby, after two hours of neglect, goes silent and becomes "good." Good - and numb.
Growing little humans naturally follow the energy of their cellular urges, but in this society they are often oppressed. Children jump and yell, only to be beaten and told "No!" They get frightened and cry, only to be threatened and told to "Stop!" They need to release toxins from their bladders, but are told "Don't pee!"
Under this sadistic and neglectful harassment by giant adults, children have little choice but to try to control their natural body functions. Out of fear, they hold the natural cellular waves in check with their thoughts and muscles. The connectedness and flow of their innate body wisdom eventually gets lost in a sea of tension, headaches, stomach aches, anger, sadness, emptiness, and fear.
As the oppressed child grows up, the cells of the upper brain - the "I" - don't know what the cells of the "body" are doing. The cellular tribe is no longer united, and suffers. Reflex actions are inhibited, causing problems in many areas, including digestion, breathing, heart rate, sleeping, crying, and orgasm.
The convulsion reflex - the natural involuntary wave - must return or the organism will head more rapidly toward the ultimate rigidity that is death.
A primal is nothing more than a healthy convulsion. The thinking brain steps back and allows the cellular wave of feeling to do what it does without suppression. If this is allowed, the electrochemical walls of numbness can dissolve and allow old messages of pain to come through into consciousness (the upper brain). With safety and support, these involuntary cellular expressions can reunite the entire being. It is the way we were meant to be.
As Mr. Presley once said - "Shake, Rattle, and Roll!"