Going to the Gallows….

I await my second EEG two days from now. The first one, a couple of weeks ago, showed “possible multifocal spikes,” which my neurologist says would mean I am prone to having seizures.

He said I could try medication, but I declined. The spells I’ve described in two previous posts occurred over a 5-month period, and, particularly if they were way-stations on my qigong journey, I may never have another one. If I’m taking medication and never have another one, how will I ever know if it was the medication or the never-would-have-had-another-one?

The neurologist also said he wanted me to have another EEG, presumably on account of the “possible” part of “possible multifocal spikes.” I have always been a believer in “more information,” so I said yes, even though it’s been almost two weeks since my last EEG, and the places on my forehead that the technician sandpapered for good electrode adherence are still visible.

I will have this second EEG in two days. I feel like I am going to the gallows. I considered googling “how can I game an EEG?” until I realized how incredibly silly that would be. Actually, I could probably foil the EEG by drinking a good stiff cup of coffee before the test—caffeine is forbidden because they want you to fall asleep—but I won’t. No one’s forcing me to have this EEG; it’s for my own benefit. Right?

Actually, I’m not sure about that. On the one hand I engage in a practice, qigong, which I know changes the brain, and those changes to my brain might sometimes take place in lurches that would manifest as “spells”; on the other hand, my father had seizures, so I might be predisposed—and then there’s that area in the middle where qigong might have particular effects on a seizure-prone brain. Could an EEG sort all these options out?

I recently read Gopi Krishna’s “Kundalini: The Evolutionary Energy in Man,” in which he tells how, during one of his Hindu-style meditation sessions, kundalini energy rose up his spine like fire and then played havoc with his body for years before he settled into what some would term “enlightenment.” He never sought medical intervention because he believed western-style doctors would have no way of understanding the kundalini experience and would simply treat him as a crazy person (not, by the way, that I think I’m having anything like his kundalini experience; there’s certainly no fire in my spine).

But because I drive a car, I do need to figure out what’s going on, lest I kill someone because my brain has gone from not-quite-right “spell” to full-departure “seizure.” So I will have the second EEG, and we shall see….

The first EEG was actually curious from an energetic as well as an electrical data point of view.

As she was sandpapering my forehead and scalp, the technician and I spoke about qigong. Her husband had gone to a qigong seminar years ago and experienced a lot of jerking in his body, which I have witnessed in other people and believe would be called spontaneous qi movement. (Hmmmm, I wonder what spontaneous qi movement would look like on an EEG….) She said her husband didn’t continue to study qigong, but, unlike her, he can still feel qi energy in his body.

As she attached a fistful of electrodes to my head with some sort of goop, I lay on my back on a narrow bed. When she was done, she tucked me under a sheet, dimmed the lights and left the room to sit with her equipment in an adjoining room. I had been told to go to bed an hour late and get up an hour early and to consume no caffeine for eight hours prior to the test. So as I lay there, I think I more or less went to sleep. After awhile, she came back into the room and pulled a lamp over my face, and the flashing light challenge began.

From the next room, the technician would say “Open your eyes,” and I’d open them, and then she’d say “Now close them,” and I’d close them, and the light would flash at a particular frequency. This was repeated perhaps half a dozen times, each time with the light flashing faster. The last couple of times it was quite groovy, in the manner of a light show from the ‘60s, as my visual field became squirmy with whites and blues and grays. I wished the lights would last longer.

But then the technician came back in and said that was it. We had talked about my doing some qigong while I was hooked up, so I asked her when I was going to be able to do that. “Did your doctor say you should do qigong?” she asked. I said he’d told me I could—and yes, I did say “could,” but I didn’t make any effort to explore the difference between “could” and “should”—so she told me to do it and returned to her monitor in the other room.

But there I was, lying on my back under a sheet. I don’t do qigong lying on my back; I do it standing up, in a vertical relationship with gravity. I worked my hands under the sheet and got my dantian going, and then I pulled them out and moved them up and down between my head and my dantian, achieving a lukewarm qigong experience.

After awhile I asked if I should keep going, and the technician said no, I should stop.

Later, the neurologist told me that the qigong portion of the test was useless because movement creates “muscle artifact.” Sigh…. I didn’t know that….

As I lay there drowsing and then watching the lights, I didn’t experience any cognitive weirdness.

But something did happen.

Both of my legs below the knee began to tingle, to feel alive with qi. It was quite marked, so much so that afterwards I asked if the electrodes stimulated as well as received, which was, of course, quite an ignorant question. But it had reminded me of when an acupuncturist needles one arm and you get tingling in the opposite foot. And I didn’t think it had happened because I was lying on my back and something was pressing on a nerve: I’m twisted enough that if that had been the cause, it would have happened on one side, or at least on one side first.

From a qigong point of view, I was delighted that my lower legs had come alive. For a long time in my qigong practice, I referred to my legs as my dead zone, because I felt no qi there. But they have increasingly been coming online—and they were definitely live during my EEG.

Since my EEG, I have only exchanged emails with my neurologist. However, I have an appointment to talk with him on the phone a week after my upcoming test.

I’ll want to ask what the leg tingling meant, from a neurological point of view. I wonder if there’s any way he can possibly answer that, or any way he could explain other things I have felt doing qigong. He is a kind man; I know he will try to help me understand. But is that possible?

And of course there will be whatever happens during the second test to discuss.

Like I said, I feel like I’m going to the gallows.

In the meantime, I have cancelled three of the four qigong classes I was teaching. They were not heavy-duty qigong, and there were many reasons why I wanted to quit teaching them, but one reason was my fear that I might lead someone else into the same predicament in which I now find myself.

Mind you, I don’t believe that my qigong practice is harming me. Indeed, given my family history, perhaps it is actually healing me. Or perhaps it truly is helping me evolve my consciousness, albeit via a bumpy road.

But I don’t know yet; I’m not sure yet. And it is one thing to lead myself into unknown territory, however eager I may be to go there, and quite another to lead someone else there.

But more will be revealed….

2 Comments

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2 responses to “Going to the Gallows….

  1. Nick Lape

    I know this is a difficult time for you but this open, vulnerable blog entry is truly thought-provoking, immensely interesting and very moving. Obviously qigong is central to your life and touches every part of you so this struggle and what it is unearthing about qigong practice is pulling you into some deep and fundamental places. Certainly the role of qigong in one’s physical and mental health is being questioned and the whole issue of healing and those promises we have all heard about qigong’s benefits are being elevated to a more finely tuned and increasingly focused position as hard-core reality asserts itself.

    I greatly admire your courage in reporting these very personal things and thank you for allowing us to listen in on this new part of your qigong journey. I sense you have a strong support network to help you and I suspect your always wonderful blog includes readers that make up a less visible but deeply caring group who are wishing you the best.

    • Thank you, Nick. I am very grateful for your words of support. This is indeed a trying time. And yet it has been interesting that support has come from unexpected quarters — from comments to me like yours but also in the form of other people’s Internet postings. I subscribe to Damo Mitchell’s online Daoist magazine, The Scholar Sage, and recently happened to read two posts that helped me remember why I love qigong. And coming home from Canada on the train last night — I am trying to be responsible about my driving until I get this all figured out — I googled “qigong for seizures” on my cellphone and found an article on another British web site by a man with a longstanding history of grand mal seizures. He notes that after he took up taiji and qigong, he was able to significantly reduce his seizure medication. However, the focus of his post was a time he felt a seizure coming on and was able to channel it into movements from qigong and taiji. Interesting…. I have no idea when he wrote the post but intend to try to connect with him. And, in my head, I’m beginning another post of my own… Thanks again, Yours, Barbara

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