Before he became the cultural icon Willy Gilligan, shipwrecked on an uncharted island in the Pacific, the actor Bob Denver played Maynard G. Krebs, the original TV beatnik with a compulsive aversion to work. Every week all through 1959-1960 I would tune in expectantly as Maynard, Dobie Gillis, Thalia Menninger, Zelda Gilroy and Chatsworth Osborne Junior would haplessly try to resolve one class conflict after another arising from The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. For Maynard, the only “real human being” on the show was Dobie’s father, played by Frank Faylen. For those of you who never caught an episode, Maynard was being facetious. What he lacked in the social graces, Mr. G. more than missed in lack of warmth. Clearly, Mr. G had never been taught g-tummo meditation.
If he had, Dobie’s dad would have become a master at not only interpersonal warmth, developed and regulated by a massive, connective fiber highway (his anterior cingulate cortex) connecting his emotional brain centers to his prefrontal cortex, but he would also have become superb at being able to raise and lower his internal core body temperature at will. Both of these benefits seem to accrue to diligent practitioners of g-tummo meditation.
To Vase Breath or Not to Vase Breath
Now, I’m guessing you might be wondering just was IS g-tummo? Well, it’s usually practiced in combination with Vase Breath Meditation. There, does that help? How about: it’s a little known sacred meditation technique mostly practiced in eastern Tibet and it directs the flow of energy in the brain, first to the extremities – the fingers and toes – and then to the body’s central core structures, increasing them by as much as two degrees Fahrenheit. Here’s a description of both from the actual research article hyperlinked above:
The two aspects of g-tummo meditation that lead to temperature increases are “vase breath” and concentrative visualization. “Vase breath” is a specific breathing technique which causes thermogenesis, which is a process of heat production. The other technique, concentrative visualization, involves focusing on a mental imagery of flames along the spinal cord in order to prevent heat losses. Both techniques work in conjunction leading to elevated temperatures up to the moderate fever zone.
One reason I find this research interesting is because contemporary Information Theory posits that of all the possible information we might be able to access inside and all around us in any single moment, 99% of it is taken in unconsciously. This is generally considered to be a good thing, since our waking conscious neural circuitry is already way overmatched in terms of information overload. But what this g-tummo research is suggesting is that we can actually enhance the neural networks devoted to conscious awareness by being able to intentionally control something customarily assigned to the autonomic nervous system – body temperature.
I’m Normal and I’m Fine
Why might we want to, especially when a body temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit seems to be working for most of us just peachy-dandy. Well, one question that arises is: if we can consciously control body temperature, what else might we be able to take instruction in and learn to consciously control? How about vision, visual processing? Might we be able to learn to see the coronal discharge around living creations much like Kirlian photography is apparently able to do? And might we then learn to use what we see to make unique, life-enhancing meaning from such experiences?
Or perhaps we can learn to cultivate a photographic memory in ways that make learning fast and easy? Or might we quickly acquire musical talent accompanied by perfect pitch? What about being able to intentionally amp up our immune system, that is, periodically increasing body temperature when we’re not ill the way a fever spikes to kill pathogens? No research that I know of has been done on this potential benefit of g-tummo.
Hanging Out on the Healthy Side of the Hump
Finally, there’s this central aspect of g-tummo. I’m not going to extol the wide range of benefits increasing research attributes to a regular contemplative practice. There’s plenty of evidence accruing already to support it. But what I will offer up as a point of inquiry is: what are you doing to A. recognize the stressors in your life and what they feel like in your brain and body (hint: everyone’s are unique and individual); B. effectively manage them; and C. insure that what you’re doing to manage stress is actually working to keep it on the healthy side of the hump? Perhaps it’s time to give g-tummo a try.